Management of traumatic wounds in the Emergency Department: position paper from the Academy of Emergency Medicine and Care (AcEMC) and the World Society of Emergency Surgery (WSES)
Prevaldi et al. World Journal of Emergency Surgery
Management of traumatic wounds in the Emergency Department: position paper from the Academy of Emergency Medicine and Care (AcEMC) and the World Society of Emergency Surgery (WSES)
Carolina Prevaldi 0 3
Ciro Paolillo 2
Carlo Locatelli 1
Giorgio Ricci 7
Fausto Catena 6
Luca Ansaloni 5
Gianfranco Cervellin 4
0 Emergency Department, Hospital of San Donà di Piave VE , Parma , Italy
1 Institute of Toxicology, IRCCS Fondazione Maugeri Pavia , Parma , Italy
2 Emergency Department, Academic Hospital of Udine , Parma , Italy
3 Emergency Department, Hospital of San Donà di Piave VE , Parma , Italy
4 Emergency Department, Academic Hospital of Parma , Parma , Italy
5 Emergency surgery, Hospital of Bergamo , Parma , Italy
6 Emergency Surgery, Academic Hospital of Parma , Parma , Italy
7 Emergency Deparment, Academic Hospital of Verona , Parma , Italy
Traumatic wounds are one of the most common problems leading people to the Emergency Department (ED), accounting for approximately 5,4 % of all the visits, and up to 24 % of all the medical lawsuits. In order to provide a standardized method for wound management in the ED, we have organized a workshop, involving several Italian and European experts. Later, all the discussed statements have been submitted for external validation to a multidisciplinary expert team, based on the so called Delphi method. Eight main statements have been established, each of them comprising different issues, covering the fields of wound classification, infectious risk stratification, tetanus and rabies prophylaxis, wound cleansing, pain management, and suture. Here we present the results of this work, shared by the Academy of Emergency Medicine and Care (AcEMC), and the World Society of Emergency Surgery (WSES).
Traumatic wounds; Infection; Foreign body; Tetanus; Rabies; Suture
Traumatic wounds are one of the most common prob
lems leading people to the Emergency Department (ED),
and account for approximately 5,4 % of all the visits [
The ED represents the most available facility for wound
care, due to the 24-h free access and the decreasing
primary care availability. As such, provision for effective
and safe wound care will continue to be a priority for
Emergency Physicians (EPs). Moreover, traumatic wounds
have been historically a major source of litigation against
EPs, accounting for up to 24 % of all the medical lawsuits, mainly due to missed identification and treatment of tendon or nerve injuries, or to infection and/or presence of foreign bodies . Hence, although most wounds will
heal without any treatment, a prompt and careful repair of
these injuries reduces infection and scarring, so improving
the patient satisfaction and avoiding significant additional
]. However, in current clinical practice several
different approaches to traumatic wounds are still practiced,
due to cultural gaps, myths and local traditions.
One of the specific goals of the third European Union
(EU) program in the health care area, years 2014–2020,
is to improve access to a skilled, standardized and safe
health care for EU citizens, thus improving the quality of
health care and patient safety. According to these
objectives we have organized a workshop aimed to share
knowledge and experiences in the field of wound care, involving
several Italian and European experts. The workshop was
settled in Venice, in October 2014. Later, all the discussed
statements have been submitted for external validation
to a multidisciplinary expert team, as described in the
methods. On the basis of the results of this complex
and time-consuming work, the Academy of Emergency
Medicine and Care (AcEMC), and the World Society of
Emergency Surgery (WSES) have decided to build, write
and spread a multidisciplinary position statement on the
management of traumatic wounds in the ED.
The main purposes of the present work are:
To assess the current scientific evidence on the subject.
To draw up a multidisciplinary consensus document
aimed to establish a standardized and correct
method of management of traumatic wounds in
To help clinicians in the clinical risk stratification, to
improve diagnostic and therapeutic appropriateness
as well as the cost-benefit ratio, to reduce clinical
errors, and to increase patient satisfaction.
To provide an opportunity for research and
We have decided to use a modified Delphi method, that
is a structured communication technique, originally
developed as a systematic, interactive forecasting method
which relies on a panel of experts [
]. The experts
answer to one ore more questionnaires in two or more
rounds. After each round, a facilitator provides an
anonymous summary of the experts’ forecasts from the
previous round as well as the reasons they provided for
their judgments. Thus, experts are encouraged to revise
their earlier answers in light of the replies of other
members of the panel. It is expected that during this process
the range of differences of the answers will decrease and
the group will converge towards the “correct” answer.
Finally, the process is stopped after a pre-defined stop
criterion (e.g. number of rounds, achievement of
consensus, stability of results) and the mean or median scores
of the final rounds determine the results [
The Delphi method is based on the principle that fore
casts or decisions obtained from a structured group of
individuals are more accurate than those from
unstructured groups [
]. The name “Delphi” derives from the
Oracle of Delphi, thus carrying in itself a somewhat
mythical nuance. However, the method was developed at
the beginning of the Cold War to forecast the impact of
technology on warfare [
]. One of the key characteristics
of the method relies on the anonymity of the participants.
As such, usually all participants remain anonymous, at
least until the completion of the final report. This prevents
the authority, personality, or reputation of some
participants from dominating others in the process. Another
important key characteristic is the regular feedback given to
the participants, so that they can know comments on their
own forecasts, as well as the responses of others, and the
progress of the panel as a whole. The last key characteristic
relies on the role of the facilitator, i.e. the person
coordinating the group. He/she facilitates the responses of their
panel of experts, collects and analyzes them, thus
identifying the conflicting viewpoints. If consensus is not reached,
the process continues through thesis and antithesis, to
gradually work towards synthesis, and building consensus.
To build this document we have composed a
multidisciplinary panel consisting of EPs and Surgeons, as well as
other experts in different fields, coming from different
countries. The study, which lasted about four months, was
divided into two different phases. In both phases a
dedicated questionnaire was sent by e-mail to each member of
the panel. In the first phase, there were three rounds. After
that, consensus was reached in eight of the topics
addressed. as such, it was considered as appropriate, in the
second step, to repeat the round in order to try to reach
consensus on all the addressed issues. The external
validation of the document was reached organizing a two days’
workshop, inviting a group of European experts to discuss
and validate the statements [
]. See Appendix.
As such, the first step was based on a series of key questions, as reported in Table 1.
At the end of the work the panel and the referees have reached an agreement on the following definitions of traumatic wounds:
If you had to provide a quick diagnostic test to evaluate immediately
and with certainty immunization status of injured patients compared
to tetanus, would consider it useful in the emergency department to
improve the appropriateness of tetanus immunoprophylaxis and
management of his patients?
Traumatic Wound: a wound or laceration of traumatic
origin with no evidence of macroscopic contamination
or signs of active infection (and likely low probability
Dirty Traumatic Wound: a wound or laceration of
traumatic origin macroscopically contaminated.
Among these wounds we include those with
simultaneous perforation of a viscus; with presence
of devitalized tissues; with foreign bodies; those
that occurred in a contaminated environment
(dung, marshes); animal bites; puncture wounds;
wounds with a delayed treatment.
Infected Traumatic Wound: a wound or laceration of
traumatic origin with signs of infection (secretions) [
After completed that step, the panel reached consensus on a series of statements concerning the management of traumatic wounds. For each statement, selected references are provided. The statements are as follows:
All traumatic wounds are to be considered
contaminated at presentation in ED.
It is useful to provide an initial stratification of the
risk of infection for all the traumatic wounds.
The risk assessment should be based on both the
following: i) type of wound; ii) location of the wound;
iii) characteristics of the wounded patient.
With the aim of simplifying and optimizing the
management of patients in the ED, the following
fields of stratification of the risk of infection was
identified: type of wound, location of the wound,
characteristics of the patients. In Tables 2, 3, 4 the
suggested items for risk assessment are summarized.
2A. Avoid antibiotic administration in low risk
wounds (for all three variables considered).
Engagement of deep tissues, exposed fracture
2B. Consider antibiotic administration when one
or two high risk variables are present.
2C. If the decision to avoid antibiotic administration
in high risk wounds is made the reason must always
be clearly stated.
2D. In every wound consider the risk of tetanus
according to the patient’s immunization status.
Antibiotic prophylaxis (i.e., a preventive administration
of an antibiotic before the emergence of an infection
with the aim to prevent it). It is desirable to implement
prophylactic antibiotics in selected cases of wounds at
high risk of infection.
3A. Avoid antibiotic prophylaxis in a not
macroscopically contaminated wound, well
vascularized, at low risk of infection
(according to statements 2).
3B. Antibiotic prophylaxis should be considered in
grossly contaminated wounds and in cases at high
risk of infection (according to statement 2)
depending on the epidemiological criteria of
antibiotic resistance in the area. In high risk wounds
(all three variables considered) the EP should
explain clearly the reason for avoiding the antibiotic
The assessment of tetanus immunization status in
every traumatic wounded patient who arrive in the
ED is desirable.
5A. All traumatic wounds are potentially at risk for
5B. The assessment of tetanus immunization
status of patients should be performed through a
thorough history and consultation of documentation
confirming vaccination/booster, and eventually
using a diagnostic quick test in doubtful cases.
5C. The following items should be considered as
“doubtful” (i.e., cases for which it is not possible to
determine the immunization status of the patient):
a. Patient who does not remember the date of the
b. Patient unconscious, intoxicated or cognitively
c. Patient who does not understand your language;
d. Patient who, presumably, has never carried out a
complete vaccination course.
5D. Access to vaccination data and the availability of
a rapid diagnostic test for assessing the status of
tetanus immunization permit to streamline costs
and to act with greater appropriateness [
It is desirable that in any ED is available the first
administration of rabies vaccine (for at least two patients).
Doses sufficient for full courses of rabies immunoglobulin
treatment for two patients should be available in Poison
Control Centers and in 2nd level EDs (at least 1 for every
5 million inhabitants and at least 1 in each major island)
It is desirable a proper and timely implementation of
procedures and methods for preventing infection in any
traumatic wound. The identified methods of preventing
infection are the following:
6A. Irrigation using appropriate security safeguards.
Irrigation can be performed with saline
(or tap water), with high pressure if necessary,
according to the degree of contamination of the
wound and the anatomic location.
6B. Search for foreign bodies. Beside an accurate
visual inspection, X-rays, CT or ultrasound
examination should be taken into consideration.
6C. Suture technique
✓ Avoid shaving of hair
✓ With simple stitches, always after irrigation
✓ The intradermal suture should be avoided in
✓ If the risk of infection is high suture may be
All the wounds of the hand should be carefully
evaluated, considering them at high risk of error.
7A. Any traumatic injury of the hand should be
considered for a possible tendon injury, especially if
located on the volar or dorsal side.
7B. Any traumatic injury of the hand should be
considered for a nerve injury, especially if located on
the lateral side of the fingers
7C. A physical examination should be performed in
any traumatic injury of the hand to check for any
eventual tendon or nerve damage before performing
7D. In every traumatic injury of the hand treated
in the emergency department the possibility of
performing a follow-up should be considered
It is a priority to treat pain in traumatic wounds
in all patients who attend to the ED. Several different
protocols for the pain management are available,
both pharmacological and non-pharmacological.
Oral, local, intravenous, intra-nasal, and respiratory
way (i.e., nitrous oxide) may be taken into consideration
We consider our work as a starting point and network
ing opportunity for participation in the forthcoming call
funding programs in health care. In addition, the shared
document (position paper), validated during the workshop
with the precious contribution of international experts,
intends to contribute to policy and health priorities in the
European and international areas.
Nice, France; Fabio Toffoletto, San Donà di Piave, Italy;
Rodolfo Sbrojavacca, Udine, Italy; Bruno Mégarbane,
Paris, France; Biagio Epifani, Mirano, Italy; Camilla Negri,
Gorizia, Italy; Matteo Pistorello, Montebelluna, Italy;
Michael Espa, Lyon, France; Cavenaile Jean-Christophe,
Bruxelles, Belgium; Primo Botti, Firenze, Italy; Paola De
Benedictis, Legnaro, Italy; Roberta Aiello, Legnaro, Italy;
Marta Mazzoleni, Pavia, Italy; Michele Alzetta, Venezia,
Italy; Michele Mitaritonno, Parma, Italy; Arianna Fede
Catania, San Donà di. Piave, Italy; Antonella Tonetto, San
Donà di. Piave, Italy; Farhadullah Khan, San Donà di.
Piave, Italy; Buffolo Gabriella, San Donà di. Piave, Italy;
Flavia Gandin, Udine, Italy; Maria Rita Laera, Alessandria,
Italy; Cesare Montecucco, Padova, Italy; Lorenzo Calligaris,
Trieste, Italy; Peter Heinz, Cambridge, UK; Tiziana
Zangardi, Padova, Italy; Maria Paola Saggese, Brescia,
Italy; Mario Saia, Venice, Italy; Fabio De Jaco, Imperia, Italy;
Francesco Pratticò, Verona, Italy; Roberto Lerza, Savona,
Italy; Guido Grazie, Savona, Italy; Liviana Da Dalt, Padova,
Italy; Almerto De Mas, Pordenone, Italy.
The work has been made possible with the contribution of the “Progetto
Mattone Internazionale” of the Italian Ministry of Health.
CP1 conceived the study, partecipated in its design and coordination and
drafted the manuscrip, CP2 partecipated in the organization of process and
the coordination of the panellists, CL partecipated in the organization of
process and was involved in tetanus and rabies infections statements, GR
participated in the organization of the process of external revision of the
position paper, FC partecipated in the design of the study, LA partecipated
in the design of the study, GC participated in the organization of the process
and the drafting of the manuscript. All the authors read and approved the
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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