Defining Trauma

Trauma refers to physical injuries of sudden onset and severity which require immediate medical attention. Traumatic injuries are categorised as low severity, moderate severity or severe, using an Injury Severity Score. Examples of low and moderate severity injuries include soft tissue injuries, simple wrist and ankle fractures or simple skull fractures with no associated brain injury. Severe injury, signified by an Injury Severity Score of greater than 15, is also known as major trauma.

Major trauma involves injuries which have the potential to cause prolonged disability or death and is the leading cause of death among children and young adults, and is increasingly a cause of death among older adults. Examples of major trauma include falls, road traffic collisions, and injuries to the head and spine. The burden of trauma on patients, their families, the health service and society in general, is significant.


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