Trauma surgeons are physicians capable of performing time-sensitive, life-saving operations and procedures for patients who have suffered severe trauma or illness, usually in a hospital setting.

Watch an Overview of Trauma Surgery

About Trauma Surgery

Trauma surgery is a form of emergency medicine providing surgical care for patients who have suffered injury as a result of a severe impact. These may include car accidents, blunt force trauma, stabbings and gunshot wounds, among other types of impact injuries. Generally, injuries that require the skills of a trauma surgeon are life threatening, and must be cared for quickly by the surgeons at trauma centers or hospitals.

Trauma surgeons are highly trained physicians who are capable of quickly assessing the situation and stabilizing the patient, making a further diagnosis, and providing the necessary operative care. Generally, trauma surgeons must treat patients in critical condition who have sustained critical injuries to multiple organ systems. For this reason, trauma surgeons may work as part of a multidisciplinary team, employing the assistance of other surgeons or specialists, such as vascular (to repair damaged blood vessels) or orthopedic (to repair broken bones) surgeons.

Trauma surgery is a highly stressful and hectic area of medicine. In this specialty, time is of the essence – every minute counts when a patient has received a traumatic injury. For this reason, trauma surgeons are trained in many different areas of surgery, including general, vascular and thoracic surgery. Trauma surgeons are capable of performing life-saving operations with little preparation time, making critical decisions based on their education, training and intuition.

Trauma Surgery Education & Training

Trauma surgeons are trained extensively in many different areas of surgery, and have completed a rigorous program of study and training. After earning a bachelor’s degree from an undergraduate program, the completion of a four year medical degree is required. During medical school the student is trained in the basics of medicine, receiving training in classroom, clinical and laboratory settings.

Following graduation from medical school, the student is required to complete a residency program in general surgery. General surgery residencies generally consist of five years of clinical surgical training under the supervision of experienced surgeons. General surgery residencies usually train the resident in nine primary areas of surgery: breast, skin and soft tissues; the vascular system; the head and neck; the alimentary tract; trauma management; critical care; the endocrine system; the abdomen; and surgical oncology. Depending upon the residency, surgeons may receive more training in one area or another – residency curriculums vary from one program to the next.

Following a general surgery residency, the physician must complete a one to two year fellowship in critical care and trauma. During the fellowship, the physician will receive specialized training in the surgical care of patients who have suffered a life-threatening traumatic injury. Fellows complete clinical rotations throughout different settings, gaining experience through exposure to a wide range of situations that require the attention of a trauma surgeon. Trauma surgeons typically seek board certification from the American Board of Surgery in surgical critical care. Board certified trauma surgeons must complete maintenance of certification requirements and renew their status in ten year intervals. Every trauma surgeon must be licensed to perform surgery by state medical licensing boards.