What is Polytrauma?

It’s bad enough when you have an injury due to an accident or assault. When you suffer more than a single injury, perhaps to multiple parts of the body or several types of injury to one part of your body, you have polytrauma. Typically, this means you’re severely injured, and the nature of these injuries could complicate your treatment, involving several medical disciplines and rapidly changing treatment priorities.

When you require an orthopaedic trauma specialist to oversee one or more injuries, contact Eric E. Johnson, MD, in Los Angeles. Known and admired for his skills around the world, Dr. Johnson publishes extensively in the orthopaedic trauma field and keeps up to date with leading-edge techniques, assuring you the most comprehensive and advanced treatment. When your experience with polytrauma requires orthopaedic specialty, Dr. Johnson is the obvious call.

Defining polytrauma

Because of the complex nature of multiple injuries, polytrauma (also sometimes called “multitrauma”) retains a broad definition and application, a bit of medical shorthand that’s instantly perceived by medical professionals as severe and with potentially high treatment priority. Therefore, polytrauma itself is not a diagnosis, but rather a qualifier that requires more information about the patient’s condition.

In practical use, multitrauma usually describes a patient emerging from an incident where:

As well as the count and location of injuries, the patient is usually in shock, suffering severe blood loss, with one or more vital functions in crisis. Though considered one of the greatest challenges in trauma care, polytrauma doesn’t have a universally accepted definition. Some experts suggest reserving the term for patients whose lives are in imminent danger due to their specific polytraumas.

Prioritizing injuries

First introduced in 1969 and updated regularly since then, the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) serves as a quick way to measure injury severity. Using a scale between 1 and 6, with 1 being a minor injury, 5 representing the most severe, and 6 signifying a fatal injury, each of 9 areas of the body. Typically, first responders make the initial AIS assessment, and it’s the point of identification of polytrauma.

In emergencies, polytrauma patients receive direct admittance to Level I medical centers. Polytrauma patients admitted to Dr. Johnson’s care arrive through the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Orthopaedic assessment of polytrauma

Injuries to the chest, pelvis, and spine present the highest risk to health, so these receive first assessment using diagnostic imaging, including X-ray, CT, and MRI scans. Once these injuries are under control, the extremities – arms, legs, hands, and feet – receive treatment.

You may face challenges as you heal from orthopaedic polytrauma. Dr. Johnson and his team remain your partners through the recovery process, targeting full function at the end of treatment. Contact Eric E. Johnson, MD, at any stage along your polytrauma journey. 

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