What is Polytrauma?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 29 February 2020
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Polytrauma is the name used in modern medicine to describe a patient who has suffered multiple trauma injuries. For example, trauma injuries include those such as strong blows to the head, burns and impact injuries. A polytrauma is given a score known as an Injury Severity Score that provides an immediate indication of the level of trauma. Although the term is most commonly used by military doctors it can be applied to civilian injuries, too.

The most common cause of a polytrauma in everyday life is car accidents. During an accident, a person will be subjected to large and uncontrolled forces on many areas of the body and hence multiple fractures and injuries are common. For this reason when a person is involved in a serious car accident a doctor will often ask for x-rays of a number of the most important areas of the body such as the spine and chest. These help to diagnose the most serious conditions first before others can be addressed.

In military medicine, a polytrauma is often caused by explosive weapons. For example, wars expose troops to improvised explosives that are known for causing traumatic injuries to more than one area of the body. Not only can the material from the devices cause injury but the shock waves can also induce brain damage and the heat can result in severe burns.


Although polytrauma in military medicine is seen as more common today this may not actually be the case. Instead, the reason for more recorded cases of this type of injury could be due to the fact that in previous wars soldiers were unlikely to survive such injuries. Today, survival rates are much higher although the solider is often left with permanent disabilities such as blindness and loss of limbs. Post traumatic stress is also common among soldiers who’ve suffered from multiple trauma injuries.

Due to the increased numbers of soldiers suffering from polytrauma there are now several clinics in the US that specialize in treating these types of injuries. Two are located in Palo Alto, Ca., and Tampa Bay, Fla. Treating the initial symptoms of the trauma is only part of the problem, however, as once the initial stages are over the soldier must be taken through extensive rehabilitation which the clinics also specialize in. Treatment and rehabilitation for multiple trauma injuries can last for many months and involve numerous specialists and health care workers.



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