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What is Orthopaedic Trauma; How Do We Care for These Injuries?

A traumatic injury refers to a severe physical injury that occurs suddenly; e.g., the result of a vehicle accident or fall, and typically requires immediate medical attention for evaluation and treatment. Orthopaedic trauma injuries can range from isolated single extremity fractures to complex multiple extremity injuries. Often, multiple bones can be involved and the injury can include joint, tendons, ligaments, nerve and vascular structures. Sometimes, when the bone is fractured, it can break through the skin, lending to increased risk of infection and wound complications. According to the American College of Surgeons, more than 60 percent of all injuries involve the musculoskeletal system, and more than half of hospitalized trauma patients have at least one of these injuries. These injuries have the potential to be life threatening or limb threatening, and certainly life altering.

At times, broken bones and soft tissue injuries can be treated without surgery, with casting or splinting alone. Treatment considerations are complex and depend on the location and severity of the injury, age of the patient and outcome goals of the patient. If surgery is indicated and desired, surgical fixation can include wires, plates and screws, or devices that fit within the bone marrow canal, known as intramedullary nails. All treatment options stabilize the fracture and allow the bone to heal. Some of the more complex surgical procedures include those done to manage infection or to fix bones that have failed to heal or have healed in a poor position. Likely, all patients experiencing orthopaedic trauma will require early mobilization, physical therapy and ongoing office visits to optimize recovery.

A new sub-specialty has emerged in large hospitals and trauma centers throughout the U.S. called Orthopedic Traumatology. Orthopaedic traumatologists are surgeons who have chosen to complete additional surgical training in this complex area of medicine. As the need for this specialized level of care is increasing, so are the communities who recruit these surgeons who skillfully put people back together after they’ve sustained life altering or life threating extremity injuries.

Board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic traumatologists and other trauma-focused surgeons utilize advanced surgical techniques, cutting-edge surgical equipment, modern operating rooms and proven models of care. As part of the emergency and trauma team, the orthopedic traumatologist helps determine and implement a treatment plan that will help that patient regain as much function and quality of life as possible. This comprehensive, long-term plan begins moments after the injured patient arrives in the Emergency Room and typically continues months or even years after the injury.

Residents and visitors of Flagstaff and Northern Arizona have access Flagstaff Medical Center which is a Level I Trauma Center. The center is fulfilling a tremendous need in Northern Arizona when it comes to stabilization and care of injured and critically injured patients. Dedicated teams of critical care providers are always available. The team includes skilled orthopedic surgeons and now an orthopedic traumatologist.

No one plans on needing emergency or trauma services. Fortunately, patients who experience extremity trauma can now receive comprehensive surgical interventions and care plans from the orthopedic traumatologist, ensuring the best chances for rehabilitation to restore function. FBN


By Brandon Clark, D.O.

Brandon Clark, D.O., recently moved to Flagstaff and joined the team of orthopedic physicians and experts at Northern Arizona Orthopaedics. Dr. Clark is specialty trained to treat patients who have experienced multiple orthopedic injuries, fractures of the pelvis and hip, and complex fractures around major joints. He is a member of the trauma team at Flagstaff Medical Center’s Level I Trauma Center. He also provides surgical repair and reconstruction of broken bones that have failed to heal or have healed inappropriately. He also offers numerous treatment options for patients who have hip and knee arthritis and patients who need joint replacement. Dr. Clark is fellowship-trained in orthopedic trauma surgery, and specializes in orthopedic trauma and adult post-traumatic reconstruction.

To learn more about orthopedic traumatology, visit the Orthopedic Trauma Association’s website. To learn more about Dr. Clark or to make an appointment with him or one of the other orthopedic physicians and specialists at Northern Arizona Orthopaedics, visit or call 928-774-7757.



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