Trauma is an injury sustained in an accident that results in damage to the bones or soft tissue (muscles, tendons and ligaments). It can range in severity, from a mild sprain to a compound fracture. We see many different types of upper and lower limb trauma in the clinic. Our approach is always to recommend the least invasive forms of treatment first – such as rest, anti-inflammatories or immobilisation – as this carries the least risk. However, some types of trauma require surgery.
Among the trauma injuries we treat:
- Open fractures (where the skin is pierced by the broken bone, exposing the bones and underlying tissues to the risk of infection from bacteria)
- Closed fractures (where the skin remains unbroken)
- Complex fractures where the bone is broken into many parts.
- Displaced fractures where the bone fragments have been pushed out of position and are no longer properly aligned.
- Stress fractures which are tiny cracks in the bone that are caused by overuse, such as repeatedly jumping or running long distances.
- Complex injuries involving bones, nerves, tendons and arteries which may require surgery to reconstruct bones and soft tissues.
Soft tissue injuries, including
- Sprains, strains and ruptures of the ligaments, tendons and muscles.
Many serious trauma injuries are caused by high impact accidents, such as a road traffic accident or a fall from a height. Trips and falls are common, particularly among older people, and can result in hip or wrist fractures. Sports people are particularly prone to sprains, strains and ruptures, as well as stress fractures. High impact sports, such as rugby, tennis and volleyball tend to result in higher numbers of trauma injuries than low impact activities like yoga and swimming.
A physical examination will be carried out with all types of trauma injury and the doctor will ask questions about how the injury occurred and where you are experiencing pain. Depending on the type of injury you may be given an imaging test which allows the doctor to see what is going on inside your body. These include:
- Ultrasound scan
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the trauma injury. Some minor injuries, such as mild sprains, can be treated using the RICE method – rest, ice, compression and elevation of the affected limb and the use of a splint for a short period.
The majority of fractures where the bone is in a good position can be treated without surgery and generally involve immobilising the affected bone for a period of time to allow the fracture to heal. This period can range from 3 weeks for small bones such as finger fractures to 3 months for more complex fractures of the lower limb.
More complex injuries however may require surgery, particularly when the bones have been jolted out of alignment (displaced fractures). Surgery often involves the placement of a plate with screws, wires or rods within the bone to maintain the bone in good alignment while the fracture heals.
If the trauma is severe, there may be a long recovery period and physiotherapy exercises may be recommended to support your rehabilitation.
Treatment by a trauma specialist like Joseph Queally can help to increase your chances of making a good recovery, particularly in cases of complex trauma.