Polytrauma | Tampa General Hospital


Polytrauma is a generic term describing a patient who has suffered multiple traumatic injuries at once. Also known as multiple trauma, this can describe someone who has suffered a serious head injury as well as a serious burn. For injuries to be categorized as major trauma, an injury severity score (ISS) of at least 16 is needed. 

Causes of Polytrauma 

In everyday life, car accidents are the main cause of polytrauma. This is because of the high speeds often involved, which can lead to multiple serious injuries. In a military setting, polytrauma is often a result of a blast-related event. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) also frequently occurs in military polytrauma patients, as well as amputation, burns and spinal cord injuries. 

Symptoms of Polytrauma 

Trauma can affect the body in unpredictable ways, so it’s difficult to pinpoint specific symptoms of polytrauma. Direct symptoms include severe pain or bleeding from different areas of the body.  

Other symptoms that might be less obvious include: 

  • Loss of memory 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Headache 
  • Impaired decision-making skills 

Diagnosis of Polytrauma 

In addition to providing a full medical exam and speaking with the patient about the pain and discomfort (if possible), a doctor may order X-rays to identify injuries in the spine, chest or pelvis (a trauma series). Additional X-rays may be needed to identify injuries affecting the limbs. CT scans or MRIs may also be needed to provide more detailed information about certain injuries.  

Treatments for Polytrauma 

It’s not uncommon for patients suffering from polytrauma to immediately be sent into surgery due to life-threatening injuries. To develop the proper course of treatment for polytrauma patients, assessments need to be made of the patient’s: 

  • Pain 
  • Communication abilities 
  • Mobility 
  • Awareness 
  • Memory 
  • Strength 
  • Emotional health 

Once these assessments are completed, a team of physicians may be assembled to provide ongoing treatment. This can include neurosurgeons, orthopedists, cardiologists, physiotherapists and many other specialists.  

Tampa General Hospital is the only Level I Trauma Center in West Central Florida providing treatment to adult and pediatric patients suffering from polytrauma. We have also earned national Level I Trauma Center verification from the American College of Surgeons (ACS), and were the first hospital in Florida to do so.