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Emergency Trauma Surgery

What is Emergency Surgery?

Emergency surgery is a non-elective surgery to treat acute illness or injury that can cause a threat to life. The acute situations can range from medical conditions like appendicitis to serious injuries caused by accidents and trauma. A team of skilled surgeons are required to perform emergency surgery within 24 hours. The trauma surgeon is in charge of evaluating, stabilizing and treating the trauma victim. They are also responsible for directing the care of the trauma team usually consisting of doctors, nurses, residents and support staff.


Medical conditions and trauma that require emergency surgery can include:

  • Severe burns
  • Appendicitis
  • Major skin infections
  • Gallbladder diseases
  • Bowel blockage
  • Certain neurological conditions
  • Trauma to head, chest, abdomen or limbs
  • Cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack or cardiac shock

Initial Assessment

On arrival to the emergency room, immediate treatment will begin that may include intravenous medications, blood transfusion and other emergency treatment options. Your doctor will assess your symptoms and take your medical history. Your vital signs such as heartbeat, blood pressure and respiratory function will be reviewed. A tube will be placed into your lungs (through the mouth) to help you breathe.

Preparing for the Surgery

Imaging tests such as X-ray, CT-scan or MRI may be ordered once the person is stabilised. Certain blood tests may be ordered. Electroencephalogram (EEG) may be ordered to diagnose a brain injury.

Emergency Surgery Procedure

The surgery includes the following steps:

  • An IV line is started in your arm to administer anaesthesia and medications.
  • The breathing tube and blood transfusion may be retained.
  • The area of the body requiring surgery will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
  • Most emergency surgeries require a large incision (open surgery).
  • The necessary surgery is performed depending on the type of illness or trauma.
  • Serious injuries may require multiple surgical procedures.
  • Surgical stitches are used to close the incisions and a bandage is applied.

Recovery after Surgery

Initial recovery takes place in an intensive care unit (ICU). Your breathing tube may be retained for a few days to help you breath. You will receive intravenous pain medications and antibiotics. A feeding tube may be used to deliver a liquid diet. After a few days, you will be moved to a private room. Incision care will be provided by the nursing staff.

At Home

You will be instructed to take prescribed medications and avoid any strenuous activities for a few weeks. Some surgeries involving injury to tendons, ligaments and bones may require physiotherapy. Your doctor may suggest Home healthcare if special care is required.

When to Call a Doctor

Immediately call your doctor if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Fever and chills
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Black stools (internal bleeding)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Infection around the incision or wound discharge
  • Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • International Liver Transplantation Society
  • International Hepato-Pancreato Biliary Association
  • Mediclinic City Hospital
  • American College of Surgeons