Advanced Trauma Life Support ATLS

A program established by the American College of Surgeons for protocols and training in trauma medicine.


Treatment pathways established to allow systematic and consistent methods of medical and surgical management.

Blunt injury

Trauma that results in deep tissue injury without rupture of the skin.

Cardiac rupture

Tearing of the atria or ventricles as a result of trauma.

Cardiac tamponade

Pressure on the heart causing restriction and damage to the conduction system.


Condition in which the body's normal blood clotting mechanism ceases to function, characteristic in severe multi-trauma.

Compartment syndrome

Increased pressure in any compartment of the body such as the cranium, abdominal cavity, or a limb caused by trauma.


Bruising. Possible blunt force.

Damage control surgery

Surgery whose objective is to stop hemorrhage and prevent sepsis without attempting reconstruction or anatomical continuity.

Definitive diagnosis

Evidence based diagnosis of a medical problem using normal investigative procedures such as imaging studies.

Definitive procedure

A planned surgical procedure, usually with specific objectives for reconstruction or restoring continuity of anatomical structures.


Hemorrhage with the potential to deplete the patient's total blood volume.

Flail chest

Rib fracture in at least three adjacent ribs in two locations each. This condition requires immediate surgery.

Focused assessment with ultrasound for trauma -- FAST

A protocol of ATLS in which ultrasound is used in a focused area to diagnose severe trauma.

Hemorrhagic shock

A type of shock characterized by vascular failure due to severe bleeding.


Bleeding into the pleural space.

Metabolic acidosis

A potentially lethal physiological condition occurring in shock, characterized by abnormally low blood pH.

Occult injury

An injury that is not detected in normal assessment procedures.

Penetrating injury

Tissue damage that occurs when an object enters the body through the skin, or the body is propelled against an object, breaking the skin.


Injury that results in air in the pleural space causing displacement or collapse of the respiratory structures.


In trauma medicine, the process of restoring physiological balance following severe trauma.

If an emergency patient has come straight from the

ER, the patient expresses a belief of imminent death. Be sure to tell the surgeon because quite often it is true.

The Lethal Triangle

Hypothermia, Metabolic acidosis, Coagulopathy.


Increased vascular resistance. Nearly all cvritical trauma patients are hypothermic. Returning to normal and maintaining patient core temperature.

Emergency situations

React appropriately, anticipate, prepare, and by all means stay calm.


Hormone release increases cardiac output. Blood pressure may remain within normal limits. Can dilute the circulating blood.


a chill



Metabolic acidosis

Lower than normal blood pH is the condition known as metabolic. Without a circulatory system or other normal physiological process to rid the body of metabolic waste, serum lactate levels rise. Lack of oxygen to muscles and abdominal organs. SHIFT FROM AEROBIC TO ANAEROBIC METABOLISM.


Disseminated intravascular coagulation may be prevented by replacing the lost coagulation factors early in the crisis. Coumadin, aspirin, ibuprofen.

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