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Acute Care Surgery1

What is Acute Care Surgery?

Acute Care Surgery (ACS) is a specialty that deals with the surgical management of emergencies and serious conditions, such as severe trauma, burn injuries, or acute surgical illness.

Acute Care Surgery comprises of health care providers with a special interest in general surgery, emergency general surgery, burns, trauma, and surgical and neurosciences intensive care unit with a full range of care consultation services. Thus, an Acute Care Surgery team is equipped to provide a full spectrum of care to individuals who are critically ill with acute surgical emergencies, severe sepsis, shock, advanced multi-organ failure, and respiratory failure, in addition to caring for individuals with traumatic injuries.

The acute surgical care team is involved in situations, such as:

  • Acute hernias
  • Acute bowel obstruction
  • Potentially fatal surgical infection
  • Emergency abdominal operation, such as removal of the appendix or gallbladder

Who is an Acute Care Surgeon?

An acute care surgeon is a general surgeon with added qualifications in emergency surgery and critical care medicine.

Emergency surgery is any general surgery that is acute in nature and done on very ill patients. For instance, if you have a tumor on your pancreas, the growth will probably be taken out during a scheduled procedure by a surgeon or surgical oncologist who specializes in the treatment of cancer. However, if your pancreas is severely infected, an acute care surgeon will carry out emergency surgery to remove fluid buildup and dead tissue.

Emergency surgery includes

  • Small bowel obstruction surgery (surgery to remove a blockage in the intestines)
  • Appendectomy (removal of the appendix)
  • Cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder)
  • Colon resection (removal of part or all of the colon, commonly for cases of diverticulitis)
  • Perforated ulcer repair (surgery to treat bleeding ulcer in the esophagus, stomach, or intestines)
  • Pancreatic necrosectomy (surgery to remove fluid and dead tissue from an infected pancreas)

Acute care surgeons and others trained in critical care medicine are sometimes referred to as intensivists or surgical intensivists, as they are specially trained to treat the most critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) who are recovering from major surgery, burns, or trauma.

What are the Conditions Treated by Acute Care Surgery?

Acute Care Surgery can treat a wide range of conditions that are acute, serious, and life-threatening. In general, acute care surgeons can provide and care for:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Acute cholecystitis and symptomatic gallstones
  • Fistulas
  • Bowel obstructions
  • Necrotizing acute soft tissue infection
  • Burns
  • Sepsis
  • Hernia
  • Emergency airway procedures
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Traumatic injury

Objectives of Acute Care Surgery

Some of the goals and objectives of Acute Care Surgery include:

  • Provide comprehensive and effective treatment, including injury prevention programs
  • Provide the highest quality of care for acutely injured and critically ill patients
  • Repair or remove acutely diseased tissues or organs to prevent life-threatening circumstances
  • Develop a trauma outcomes research program to minimize the long-term consequences of trauma on patients
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the pre-and post-surgical care of patients undergoing elective and/or emergency surgery
  • Provide accurate, compassionate, timely, and patient-centered information exchange with patients and their families
  • Utilize health care resources effectively, and safely and manage multiple tasks on time


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