Specialty of Surgical Critical Care Defined

Surgical critical care is a specialty of surgery and a primary component of general surgery related to the care of patients with acute, life-threatening or potentially life-threatening surgical conditions. Surgical critical care not only incorporates knowledge and skills of nonoperative techniques for supportive care for critically ill patients but also a broad understanding of the relationship between critical surgical illness and surgical procedures. Although much of this knowledge and skills is common to critical care specialists from a variety of medical disciplines, the diplomate in surgical critical care has specialized expertise relating both to the physiologic responses to tissue injury from trauma, burns, operation, infections, acute inflammation, or ischemia and to the ways these responses interact with other disease processes.

Specialists in surgical critical care possess advanced knowledge and skills that enable them to provide comprehensive care to critically ill patients from all surgical specialties and in all age groups. Care for the critically ill surgical patient may take place in a variety of settings, e.g. pre-hospital situations, the emergency department, the operating room, and intensive care units. Because the care of such patients involves skill in a number of disciplines, as well as an understanding of surgery, the specialist in surgical critical care must have a broad knowledge base and expertise concerning the biology of the critically ill surgical patient and the support of organ system function. They should be capable of providing leadership within their health care organizations regarding the needs of critically ill surgical patients and the administration of critical care units. They also should be able to teach others and conduct research in the field.

Posted: October 2008

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