The changing face of trauma management and its impact on surgical resident training

Patrick Bulinski, Ben Bachulis, Douglas F Naylor, David Kam, Mark Carey, Richard E Dean
Journal of Trauma 2003, 54 (1): 161-3

BACKGROUND: The management of trauma patients has become increasingly nonoperative, especially for solid abdominal organ injuries. However, the Residency Review Committee (RRC) still requires an operative trauma experience deemed essential for graduating general surgical residents. The purpose of this study was to review the trauma volume and mix of patients at two trauma centers and determine the major operative trauma cases available to residents involved in the care of these patients.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review was conducted at the two trauma centers used by the Michigan State University surgery residency. Both of the trauma centers are American College of Surgeons verified. Surgical residents are involved with the care of every trauma patient at each of the hospitals. Cumulative data were collected and analyzed from January 1, 1997, through December 31, 1999. Age, gender, mechanism of injury (blunt vs. penetrating), Injury Severity Score, length of stay, operative interventions, and patients managed nonoperatively were reviewed.

RESULTS: There were 434 patients selected for this study from 2,340 patients admitted to the trauma services. Male patients accounted for 66% of patients and female patients accounted for 34% of patients. Blunt trauma was the mechanism in 89% of patients, with penetrating trauma accounting for the other 11% of patients. Of the total number of patients, motor vehicle crashes accounted for the majority of cases, 325 of 434 (75%). Overall, 85% (370 of 434) of patients were managed without an index trauma surgical procedure according to RRC guidelines. Only 14.7% (64 of 434) of patients underwent operative intervention that qualified as index trauma surgical cases identified by the RRC. The spleen and small bowel were the two most commonly injured organs found at laparotomy. Nonoperative intervention of many patients with solid abdominal organ injuries did not meet the operation requirements expected by the RRC.

CONCLUSION: Our residency program had 10 graduating chief residents over the 3-year time period. With only 64 operative trauma cases, this yields an average of 6.4 trauma cases per resident. This falls significantly short of the 16-case minimum requirement in trauma surgery established by the RRC. The operative trauma requirements established by the RRC for graduating residents may be unattainable in many residency programs because of the high incidence of blunt trauma and the changing patterns of trauma management.

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