The definition of polytrauma: the need for international consensus

  • Nerida Butcher
    Affiliations
    Department of Traumatology, Division of Surgery, John Hunter Hospital and University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
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  • Zsolt J Balogh
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author. Zsolt J. Balogh, MD, PhD, FRACS, Department of Traumatology, Division of Surgery, John Hunter Hospital and University of Newcastle, Locked bag 1, Hunter Region Mail Centre, Newcastle NSW 2300, Australia. Tel.: +61 2 49214259; fax: +61 2 49214274.
    Affiliations
    Department of Traumatology, Division of Surgery, John Hunter Hospital and University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, Australia
    Search for articles by this author
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      Abstract

      INTRODUCTION: Polytrauma patients represent the ultimate challenge to trauma care and the optimisation of their care is a major focus of clinical and basic science research. A universally accepted definition for polytrauma is vital for comparing datasets and conducting multicentre trials. The purpose of this review is to identify and evaluate the published definitions of the term “polytrauma”.
      MATERIALS AND METHODS: A literature search was conducted for the time period January 1950−August 2008. The Medline, Embase and Cochrane Library databases were searched using the keyword “polytrauma”. Articles were evaluated without language exclusion for the occurrence of the word “polytrauma” in the text and the presence of a subsequent definition. Relevant online resources and medical dictionaries were also reviewed.
      RESULTS: A total of 1,665 publications used the term polytrauma, 47 of which included a definition of the term. The available definitions can be divided into eight groups according to the crux of the definition. No uniformly used consensus definition exists. None of the existing definitions were found to be validated or supported by evidence higher than Level 4.
      CONCLUSION: This review identified the lack of a validated or consensus definition of the term polytrauma. The international trauma community should consider establishing a consensus definition for polytrauma, which could be validated prospectively and serve as a basis for future research.

      Keywords

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