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Trauma Assessment Tips

Five assessment tips to better trauma assessments

Tip #1: It’s okay to be distracted by traumatic injuries. It’s not okay to be fooled by them.
Traumatic injuries to the face, to the head, or open injuries to the chest, abdomen and to the extremities can certainly be distracting to your assessment. Being distracted by The devastating injury or injury pattern is a natural, human response. The paramedic cannot be fooled, no matter how devastating these injuries may appear, that they are the only injuries or the most serious injuries the patient has. The point is that no matter what is ripped open, sticking out of, or impaled into the patient, the paramedic must fully assess the patient, mechanism of injury, and the surroundings. Bottom Line - You can be distracted...just don’t be fooled: as long as momentary distraction does not lead to being fooled by a nasty looking, less serious injury

Tip #2: What lies beneath? Anatomy!
Understanding of anatomy in relation to injuries, injury patterns and mechanism of injury. It’s not enough to simply observe and injury from the surface. The paramedic must understand the implication of that injury on the tissues, structures and, organs that lay beneath. What appears to be a superficial soft tissue injury on the outside can have substantial structural/organ injury underneath. Only by possessing a solid foundational understanding of anatomy will the paramedic be able to relate exterior body damage to where the true injury is… that is to the structure, organ, or system that’s impacted by the trauma. Bottom Line: Think about what lies beneath...Anatomy lies beneath and your understanding of anatomy will lead to better treatment.

Tip #3: Assess all critical areas...even if they're not injured.
No matter what the injury, injury pattern or MOI is, always assess the head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and long bones. These areas often go unchecked when we focus on a single area of the body or isolated injury. The point here is, that no matter where the injury is all of these areas have to be assessed… even if they appear on injured. Note on the neck...we spend a lot of time worrying about c-spine injuries and trauma to the posterior neck...thats good thing. But, we cant ignore the injuries to the lateral and anterior neck...vessels and airway. Bottom Line: Always assess the critical areas...head, neck, chest, abdomen, pelvis, and long bones...even if they’re seemingly uninjured.

Tip #4: Change you view...you'll get a better look!
We too often assess trauma patients while they’re supine starring straight down on them. After all, that's how you were doing it in practice in EMT class...To be effective, change your point of view. Get down on the patients level and examine from the side, survey the patient from a short distance, observe a few breaths while kneeling at the patients feet or head. Bottom Line: Change your view...move around and look at the patient from various views and from a distance...get as much of the picture as you can before you leave...you're the only one who is going to be able to do this!

Tip #5: Assess any trauma patient for hypothermia and any hypothermic patient for trauma. Think: Trauma=hypothermia, hypothermia=trauma. Trauma patients may loose the ability to thermoregulate and have a difficult time keeping warm...especially if there is uncontrolled internal or external hemorrhage. Hypothermic patients may not be able to feel the pain of an injury or have the mental ability to comprehend the injury and report it. Bottom Line: Trauma and hypothermia...they go hand in hand. Any trauma patient should be assessed for hypothermia and any hypothermia patient should be assessed for trauma.

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