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Science Education: Physical Trauma and Sepsis

Heart rate irregularitiesStudies on physical trauma and sepsis, the body's overwhelming immune response to severe injury or infection, focus on questions like:

  • What changes occur immediately and over time when a person is critically ill or injured?
  • Why does the immune system go into overdrive?
  • How can we improve diagnosis and treatment strategies?

Follow the links below to learn more about physical trauma and sepsis, including recent discoveries, and read profiles of researchers working in these areas.

Fact Sheets

Heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight or nuclear radiation can cause tissue-damaging burns. Get answers to questions about burns and related treatments and research.

Scanning electron micrograph of bacteriaSepsis
An overwhelming immune response to infection can cause sepsis. Get more information about sepsis and what we're learning about it.

Car accidentTrauma
Trauma is the leading cause of death for people 1 to 44 years old. Learn more about trauma.

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Articles on Research Advances

Free radicals in an ying-yang symbol. Credit: Stock image Molecules Known to Damage Cells May Also Have Healing Power
Molecules called free radicals have a reputation for being dangerous. Now, they’ve revealed healing powers. In worms, at least.

Doctors with a patientDormant Viruses Reactivate, Signaling Effect of Lingering Sepsis
People with sepsis have higher levels of certain viruses that may suppress the immune system's ability to defend against the viruses and other infections.

Doctors and a patient in a hospitalStudy Comparing Sepsis Treatment Methods Shows Equivalent Survival Rates
A clinical study comparing three treatment methods for sepsis showed that patients did equally well regardless of which method was used.

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Profiles: Meet a Scientist

Alfred Atanda Jr.Game Changer
Pediatric orthopedic surgeon examines the causes of elbow injuries in young baseball pitchers.

Kevin TraceyFor Janice: Legacy of a Short Life
Neurosurgeon and immunologist Kevin Tracey studies why our immune systems cause illness.

Cynthia OttoDogging Sepsis
Veterinarian Cynthia Otto studies sepsis, a dramatic, full-body reaction to an injury or illness.

More profiles

Audio and Video

Scott SomersDr. Scott Somers on Trauma
NIGMS' Scott Somers talks about what happens to the body after a serious physical injury.

Kevin TraceyDr. Kevin Tracey on Sepsis
Kevin Tracey describes how he became interested in studying sepsis and what scientists have learned about the condition.

Audio fileDr. John Younger on Sepsis Link to External Web site
John Younger discusses how he combines medicine, math and engineering to understand the occurrence of sepsis and less severe infections.

More audio and video


Cross-section of skin anatomy shows layers and different tissue types.Skin Cross-Section
Cross-section of skin anatomy shows layers and different tissue types.

Heart rates time seriesHeart Rates Time Series
These time series show the heart rates of four different individuals.

Virtual snow world
Virtual Snow World
Psychologists developed this virtual "Snow World" to test whether immersing someone in a pretend reality could ease pain during burn treatment and other medical procedures.

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This page last reviewed on December 11, 2014