Trauma Wound Basics

A trauma wound is a severe break or injury in the soft tissue of the skin. Trauma wounds may include abrasions, lacerations, crush wounds, penetration and puncture wounds. Trauma wounds can be injuries resulting from accidents or acts of violence and can worsen and become infected quickly if not treated appropriately.

Causes of Trauma Wounds

Some trauma wounds may result from accidental injury at work or home, or may be caused by a car accident. Other wounds that fall into this category can be caused by someone else or might be self inflicted.

Types of Trauma Wounds

Trauma wounds are classified as:

Abrasions: Injuries caused by something that rubs or scrapes against the skin. Scraping your knee after falling off a bike is an example of an abrasion.

Lacerations: Wounds that are produced by the tearing of body tissue. This type of wound can be a tear that is jagged, torn or irregular. A bone fracture that breaks the skin can be classified as a laceration. A laceration is often contaminated with bacteria or debris from whatever caused the cut or tear.

Crush Wounds: Injuries that occur when a body part is subjected to a high degree of force or pressure. Crush injuries are commonly seen in car accidents. Crush injuries can be as simple as slamming a finger in a door to an arm or leg being crushed and trapped under something for an extended period of time.

Puncture Wounds: These are typically caused by a sharp pointy object such as a tack or pin, animal teeth or a nail. Puncture wounds are prone to infection and should be treated quickly and appropriately. This type of wound usually does not bleed a lot and can even appear to close by itself.

Penetration Wounds: These injuries can result from an object such as a knife or bullet entering the body. Penetrating wounds can vary from superficial punctures in the uppermost layers of skin to deep penetration of major body systems. The speed of the penetrating object affects the size and severity of the wound.

Glass injuries can be classified as a laceration, puncture or penetration wound. Wounds caused by glass can become very serious, particularly if the glass is embedded.

Signs and Symptoms

With trauma wounds bleeding may be mild or heavy. Pain and swelling may occur with or without discoloration. More serious symptoms may indicate a life threatening situation. You should seek immediate medical care if you, or someone you are with, have any of the following symptoms:

  • A change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • Difficulty breathing or labored breathing
  • Heavy and uncontrollable bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • A weak or absent pulse

Who Is at Risk

People who engage in risky behaviors, such as driving while intoxicated, are much more prone to experience accidents that cause trauma wounds. Also, people who don't practice good safety measures when driving, operating machinery or other activities are at increased risk for incurring traumatic injuries and wounds. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, trauma wounds and injuries are the number one killer of Americans aged 1 to 44. People in this age group are more likely to die from an injury due to a car or other vehicle accident, a fall, or acts of violence than from any other cause.

Treatment Options for Trauma Wounds

Treatment options after incurring a trauma wound can include:

  • Stopping any bleeding
  • Cleaning the wound thoroughly
  • Dressing the wound properly to help prevent infection

Transportation to a hospital may be required if the wound(s) have impaired the body's ability to function effectively and the person is at risk for death.

Prevention of Trauma Wounds

Pointed and other sharp objects and machinery should be used according to the manufacturer's instructions and safety guidelines. Guns and other explosives should be used only by adults with extensive training, and should be kept locked away from children. Persons engaging in sports, games, and recreational activities should wear the proper protective equipment and follow all safety rules. The risk of injury from car accidents may be reduced by wearing seat belts consistently and placing children in appropriate-sized car seats in the back seat.

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