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What Is Surgical Critical Care?

By K. Kinsella
Updated May 17, 2024
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Qualified surgeons provide surgical critical care to sick and injured people who have potentially life threatening injuries or conditions. In most instances, surgical critical care is provided in hospitals and other medical facilities. Many large hospitals have facilities that are reserved exclusively for the critically injured. These departments are often known as trauma units.

Ambulances often ferry accident victims to hospitals and the ambulance crews contact hospital staff while in transit so that preparations can be made to handle the injured. Upon arriving at the hospital, the accident victims are normally taken straight to an operating room in the trauma unit where a team of physicians and nurses lead by a qualified surgeon provide the necessary medical care. Surgical critical care often involves several phases of treatment beginning with surgeries that are designed to stabilize the patient such as procedures to fix broken limbs or to remove glass, metal and other foreign bodies from accident victims.

After the most severe injuries have been addressed and the patient’s condition has been stabilized, surgeons perform further operations to resolve other injuries that the patient incurred. Complex surgeries are often conducted over the course of several days by medical practitioners who specialize in handling certain kinds of procedures. In other instances, only the most life threatening problems are addressed in the trauma unit and other minor issues are dealt with by general hospital staff.

In addition to accident victims, surgical critical care is often provided for people who are chronically ill. Surgeons may perform procedures to cut out tumors, amputate limbs or replace infected organs with donor organs. General practitioners (GPs) refer patients to the critical care team and the team members are responsible for assessing the patient's condition and arranging the surgery. In some instances, these medical professionals may even have to conduct an exploratory surgery in order to determine the extent of the problem. On some occasions, terminally ill patients are deemed to be too weak to undergo surgery in which case the surgical critical care team may make arrangements to have patients referred to a hospice.

Large numbers of other medical professionals are employed by critical care units. Anesthesiologists sedate patients, and nurses care for the injured before and after procedures are performed. Qualified physicians often assist the surgeon and in some instances these doctors are also responsible for monitoring the patients health after procedures have been performed. In many nations, critical care units are government owned and operated while in other countries these facilities are run by private companies.

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