Meet the trauma surgeons

Steve Nicol and Iain McFadyen

One of the joys of living in Sussex is the great opportunity we have on our doorstep for getting involved in outdoor activities. Maybe you enjoy tearing around the Downs on a mountain bike, leaping from Devil’s Dyke attached to a paraglider, taking to the sea to wind or kite-surf, or playing team sports such as football and rugby.

Taking part in such activities is great for our health and well-being, but inevitably injuries do occasionally occur. Steve Nicol and Iain Mcfadyen, specialist orthopaedic trauma surgeons in Brighton, talk about their experience of managing these injuries in Sussex.

“Trauma is a medical term which covers a whole spectrum of injury - from severe complex ones to relatively minor fractures. As trauma surgeons, we deal with a huge variety of injuries. The most severely injured patients are admitted to our trauma unit at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, where we are working to become the Major Trauma Centre for Sussex and the South East. When fully operational, we expect to treat about 350 patients with severe and multiple injuries every year.

We’re seeing more sporting injuries, particularly from extreme sports

“However, much more common are the isolated less severe injuries. With an ageing population we see more and more hip and wrist fractures, which are associated with osteoporosis. In younger people, improvements in car safety have resulted in less injury from road traffic accidents, but we’re certainly seeing more sporting injuries, particular those associated with extreme sports. Kite-surfing over Brighton pier might look pretty cool, but it’s probably not associated with longevity!

For many injuries surgery can give the best outcome

“Some minor fractures can be treated effectively with a short period in a plaster cast, but for many injuries - including fractures of the foot, ankle, around the knee, shoulder, elbow and wrist – surgery can give the best outcome, allowing an early return to work and sport. Fortunately, the majority of these do not require emergency admission to hospital, and patients are readmitted from home for the operation on a planned trauma surgery list.

Minimally invasive techniques can speed up recovery

“It’s an exciting time to be a trauma surgeon. The technology has advanced greatly over the last decade, with improvements in the design of the implants we use to fix fractures meaning that patients can often get moving and bearing their weight immediately after the operation. We often use minimally invasive techniques now, which can speed up recovery and allow an early return to work and sport.”