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June 1992

Analysis of Surgical Participation in the Advanced Trauma Life Support Course: What Are the Goals and Are We Meeting Them?

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Surgery, University of Washington, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle. Dr Esposito is now with the Department of Surgery and Shock Trauma Institute, Loyola University, Maywood, III.

Arch Surg. 1992;127(6):721-726. doi:10.1001/archsurg.1992.01420060101015

• Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) course records spanning 4 years were examined and American College of Surgeons members in Washington State surveyed to gain further information on ATLS course participants, skills utilization, and hospital credentialing. Thirty-seven (9.7%) of 382 course participants were trained general surgeons, 56 (14.7%) were surgical residents, and 12 (3.1%) were surgical specialists. One hundred thirty-six (35.6%) of the participants were primary care physicians and 115 (30.1%) were emergency physicians. Surgical residents, primary care physicians, and emergency physicians tended to be overrepresented in ATLS courses in comparison with their general distribution. Fully trained surgeons and surgical specialists were underrepresented. Course participants represented 3.8% of all physicians involved in patient care in the state. Only 6.4% of all active general surgeons in the state were participants, while 39% of active emergency physicians participated. The successful completion rate was 94% (98% for surgeons and 92% for nonsurgical physicians). Thirty-one percent of all American College of Surgeons survey respondents (31% of urban practitioners and 21% of rural practitioners) reported current ATLS qualification. Advanced Trauma Life Support qualification was reported by 31% of respondents as a requirement for taking trauma/emergency department call. Surgeons with a preference not to treat patients with trauma were less likely to have ATLS qualification. More than half of those who reported ATLS qualification had not performed a tracheal intubation, cricothyroidotomy, pericardiocentesis, or emergency department thoracotomy in the previous year. Participation of surgeons in ATLS courses is low, particularly among rural practitioners. Impetus for participation appears related to requirements for hospital staff credentialing and preferences for treating patients with trauma. Performance of procedures taught in the course is rare. Strategies to increase participation need to be formulated and implemented.

(Arch Surg. 1992;127:721-726)

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