Introduction: Since Acute Care Surgery (ACS) was first conceptualized as a specialty a decade ago, ACS teams have been widely adopted. Little is known about the structure and function of these teams.
Methods: We conducted 18 open-ended interviews with ACS leaders (1 interview/center representing geographic [New England, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, South, West, Midwest] and practice [Public/Charity, Community, University] variations). Two independent reviewers analyzed transcribed interviews using an inductive approach to determine major themes in practice variation (NVivo qualitative analysis software).
Results: All respondents described ACS as a specialty treating "time sensitive surgical disease" including trauma, emergency general surgery (EGS), and surgical critical care (SCC). 11/18 combined trauma and EGS into a single clinical team; 6/18 included elective general surgery. Emergency orthopedics, neurosurgery, and triage for all surgical services were rare (1/18 each). 11/18 had blocked OR time. All had a core group of trauma and SCC surgeons; 8/18 shared EGS due to volume, manpower, or competition for EGS call. Many (12/18) had formal morning signout rounds; few (2/18) had prospective EGS data registries. Streamlined access to EGS, evidence-based EGS protocols, and improved communication were considered strengths of ACS. ACS was described as the "last great surgical service" reinvigorated to provide "timely," cost-effective EGS by experts in "resuscitation and critical care" and to attract "young, talented, eager surgeons" to trauma and SCC; however, there was concern that it might become the "waste basket for everything that happens at inconvenient times."
Conclusion: Despite rapid adoption of ACS, its implementation varies widely. Standardization of scope of practice, continuity of care, and registry development may improve EGS outcomes and allow the specialty to thrive.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/catarina_kiefe/200/