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Surgery vs EM articles and professionals

Ronald Gross Rgross at harthosp.org
Sun Apr 23 12:20:30 BST 2006

Thank you, Ken.  You took the time to write down what we have discussed
in the past.  And what I agree with completely.  It is not a job, in is
not a profession - medicine and surgery is a call.  Trauma surgery is
just one aspect of that calling that some of us are passionate about,
and like all of our colleagues (one would hope, anyway) all that we want
to do is the best trhat can be done with what we have at our imediate
disposal for the 10-15% of those injured patients that are going to need
the highest level of care available.

I will shut up now.

>>> KMATTOX at aol.com 04/22 10:59 AM >>>

Are there surgeons who are completely uncomfortable and inadequate in 

treating trauma patients?  Are there cardiologist who are technically 
adept?  Are there paramedics who can intubate even the most  difficult
Are there surgeons who can read an EKG?  Are there  emergency
physicians who 
are a trauma surgeons dream as an associate and  partner?  Are there 
cardiologist who always misread an  echocardiogram?  Are there
interventional radiologist 
who never take care  of their hematoma and infectious complications? 
there trauma surgeons,  neurosurgeons, and orthopedic surgeons who
almost never 
come in to the hospital  when called by an emergency physician,
although they 
are getting paid to be on  call?   Are there emergency physicians who
to use cyclic  hyper resuscitation and are very very slow to call a
even on a "bleeding  to death" patient until they have satisfied their
ego?  Are 
there surgeons  whose hands do not seem to be connected to their brain?
The answer to these questions is a resounding YES.   
The response to the articles in both system, management, EM, trauma,
surgical journals is that we should provide to any emergency patient
the very  
best that we have available at any particular time.  It is no secret
that  the 
majority of the trauma surgeons from the famous Denver General Hospital
Service were away at the national meeting at the time of the Columbine 

School shootings a few years ago, and most of the in juried were taken
to the  
areas non-level I trauma center.    
In just what percent of the total trauma load of population catchment,
a trauma system, a trauma center, and a trauma surgeon make a 
Depending on how you define effectiveness, it may be  somewhere between
2% and 
8%.  Without question, most injured patients  do not need a trauma
trauma surgeon, and maybe not even a surgeon.   I remember the days
emergency physicians reduced and splinted a  Collies Fracture very
well, and sent the 
patient on their way.     Code I trauma (the minor injuries) in Houston
encouraged to be taken by  ambulance or private car to NON-Level I
centers.  It is  the patient with a high injury severity score, altered

physiology, and need  for immediate surgery or surgical intensive care
that benefits 
from the trauma  system.   Only 6-8% of a catchments trauma patients
hypotensive  and 1/3 of these hypotensive patients have fatal and
non-survivable injuries.   In another 1/3 of the patients their 
hypotension is due 
to NON-blood loss causes, such as pneumothorax, a stomach  full of air,

drugs, etc.   A trauma surgeons presence is not  going to have ANY
impact on 
outcome in this 2/3 of post traumatic hypotensive  patients.    It is
in the other 
1/3 (2-3% of the total  trauma load) that the trauma surgeon can and
does make 
a significant difference  because of their availability, presence,
skill, decision making,  discipline, and down stream effects.   
For the post traumatic hypotensive patient with a survivable injury,
purpose of the emergency center and the emergency physician is to wave
to the  
patient as they go from the ambulance dock to the ICU, interventional
suite, or  
operating room.   There is very little that needs or can be done  to
outcome, except increase the time, increase the cyclic crystalloid 
resuscitation, increase the complications, increase the mortality by 
treatment in 
the emergency center.   It is in these cases that  the acute care
presence is essential, and the trauma system  is at its best.   Can
specialist in health care be  essential parts of this team, led by
evidence based 
principles.  Of course  they can and do.   Can an ill informed surgeon
patients in  this group with immediate life threatening injuries.  Of
course they  
can, by not being available, by popping the clot, by activating
cytokines,  by 
temporizing definitive therapy, by over treating, etc. etc.    
I still take Acute Care Surgery (formerly known as Trauma) in-hospital 
several times a month.   And I am much older than Dr.  Gross.   Do I
make a 
difference when I am on call.  I tend to  think that I do, for the kind
patient I have identified who needs to  not stay in the EC for
unnecessary tests, 
or to document by innumerable CT  scans, what is already known by
physical exam 
or simple tests, most of which can  be performed in the OR or ICU.    
Are there a list of Acute Care Surgery conditions which every 
physician, intensivist, and surgeon in the world would agree need 
urgent and 
rapid surgical mentality and technical intervention.  Of  course such a
list can 
and has been constructed.    
Remember that being a surgeon is not just a technical, non-cognitive 
Being a surgeon is a philosophy of life, an approach to  problem
which on occasion involves an operation.   In today's  world many
physicians, intervenional pulmonologists,  cardiologist,
interventional radiologists and others  are "surgeons" from a
standpoint.   Likewise there are  "surgeons" who are almost afraid to
make a decision 
or appear afraid to operate  on the big bad acute care surgical case
and from 
a psychomotor  standpoint are more like the internist of the 1950s.   
This is 
 not a criticism of career choice, it is just recognizing that the
proceduralists of today function in numerous venues of the  hospital.  
Yes, each of us can find one or two articles which fluff our specialty
but it is the standardized system approach to major health problems and
challenges ( such as disasters, evacuations, bird flu, trauma,  cancer,
clean air, 
immunizations, vascular disease, futility, medical  economics, etc) the

require for us to collectively apply our judgement,  energies, and
discipline.   To 
do otherwise converts us from a  professional guild to simple
employed tradesmen and  tradeswomen.    
Let us together preserve the guild.  
Kenneth L. Mattox, M.D.  
trauma-list : TRAUMA.ORG
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