Is There Evidence to Support the Need for Routine Surgeon Presence on Trauma Patient Arrival?

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The trauma center certification requirements of the American College of Surgeons include the expectation that, whenever possible, general surgeons be routinely present at the emergency department arrival of seriously injured patients. The 2 historical factors that originally prompted this requirement, frequent exploratory laparotomies and emergency physicians without trauma training, no longer exist in most modern trauma centers. Research from multiple centers and in multiple varying formats has not identified improvement in patient-oriented outcomes from early surgeon involvement. Surgeons are not routinely present during the resuscitative phase of Canadian and European trauma care, with no demonstrated or perceived decrease in the quality of care. American trauma surgeons themselves do not consistently believe that their use in this capacity is either necessary or an efficient distribution of resources. There is not compelling evidence to support the assumption that trauma outcomes are improved by the routine presence of surgeons on patient arrival. Research is necessary to clarify which trauma patients require either emergency or urgent unique expertise of a general surgeon during the initial phase of trauma management. Individual trauma centers should be permitted the flexibility necessary to perform such research and to use such findings to refine and focus their secondary triage criteria.

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