Trauma is injury to the body caused by an external source that can be physical or psychological. Physical traumas are classified as blunt trauma and penetrating trauma. The most common causes of physical trauma are motor vehicular accidents, blunt trauma and brawls.1 Penetrating trauma caused by insertion of a foreign body such as a knife or bullet into the body occurs less commonly and is major cause for worry.2 Blast injuries are major traumas caused due to explosions and include both blunt and penetrating trauma. They may be associated with burns too. Trauma may also be associated with occupational activity such as sports.
Trauma can occur to any organ of the body.3 Traumatic injury to the brain causes several complications such as altered consciousness such that patient may go into a state of coma or a semi-comatose state, which may be transient or prolonged. Seizures known as post traumatic epilepsy, infections of the surrounding layers of the brain known as meningitis, blood clots, stroke, intracranial bleeds, paralysis of face, loss of memory, difficulty in talking and other behavioural changes might be seen as a result of trauma to any part of the brain. Injury to the brain leads to decreased oxygen supply to the brain, causing death of the brain cells that control various vital centres of the body, in turn affecting other important organs such as the heart, lungs and kidneys.
Vehicular accidents can be severe enough to cause fractures of hands, knees, hip joint or any other joint/bone of the body. If not complex, fractures can be managed with medications, plaster cast and immobilization for a few weeks. In major accidents where many bones are affected along with tissue and skin penetration, surgical intervention is compulsory and may give rise to complications such as clot formation or a mild limb deformity, even following surgery.
Trauma to the chest can cause rib fractures, inflammation of lungs and their coverings, and can give rise to collection of fluid around them. Injury to the spinal cord may be dangerous as various nerves pass through it. Any damage can lead to complications such as neurological deficit, paralysis, etc and must not be ignored. Blunt trauma on the heart can cause traumatic cardiac arrest. Severe and multiple injuries might lead to rapid death if not attended immediately. Thus, following any motor vehicle accident, it is of chief importance that you see an orthopedic doctor and rule out temporary or permanent injuries.
Penned by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD