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Fixing the Breaks - Treating Car Crash Injuries: December 1, 2012

As an orthopedic trauma surgeon, Dr. Pat Leach has seen the body broken in just about every way possible through any means possible.

“Anything that gets a human being moving faster than we’re designed to be moving; cars, motorcycles, ATVs, dirt bikes . . . sometimes an industrial situation, people that have fallen from a height. I’ve seen mechanics where cars have fallen off racks,” says Dr. Pat Leach, orthopedic trauma surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The most common traumatic injuries result from car crashes. The job of an orthopedic trauma surgeon is to put the pieces back together. Many times there’s multiple broken bones, including ones that are crushed or shattered.

“A lot of times we’ll see patients that have some sort side impact or a T-bone type injury.  What will occur is there will be fractures of the bones, mostly where muscles attach or where the main pelvic bones attach to the sacrum or the tailbone.  And then the other main type of pelvic fracture is a fracture of the hip socket,” says Dr. Leach.

The orthopedic aspects aren’t the top priority, unlike other trauma specialties that treat life-or-death injuries.

“They’re the real life-savers.  They’re the ones that stabilize the patient, make sure any internal injuries - heart, lungs, solid organ injuries - are addressed,” says Dr. Leach.

Surgery to fix breaks often comes down the road.

“We try to do it as soon as we can; within the first couple of days. Sometimes as long as a couple weeks, a month, before the patient’s recovered enough that they can have with orthopedic issues addressed,” says Dr. Leach.

The end goal is to get patients as whole and as mobile as possible.