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ATLS Refresher Program

Advanced Trauma Life Support -Refresher-

Injured patients present a wide range of complex problems. The ATLS Student Course presents a concise approach to assessing and managing multiply injured patients. The course presents doctors with knowledge and techniques that are comprehensive and easily adapted to fit their needs. The skills described in this manual represent one safe way to perform each technique. The ACS recognizes that there are other acceptable approaches. However, the knowledge and skills taught in the course are easily adapted to all venues for the care of these patients.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) and its Committee on Trauma (COT) have developed the Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) Program for doctors; a systematic, concise training for the early care of trauma patients. The ATLS Program provides participants with a safe, reliable method for immediate management of the injured patient and the basic knowledge necessary to:

  1. Assess the patient's condition rapidly and accurately.
  2. Resuscitate and stabilize the patient according to priority.
  3. Determine if the patient's needs exceed a facility's capacity.
  4. Arrange appropriately for the patient's inter-hospital transfer (who, what, when, and how).
  5. Assure that optimum care is provided and that the level of care does not deteriorate at any point during the evaluation, resuscitation, or transfer process.

For doctors who infrequently treat trauma, the ATLS course provides an easily remembered method for evaluating and treating the victim of a traumatic event. For those doctors who treat traumatic disease on a frequent basis, the ATLS course provides a scaffold for evaluation, treatment, education, and quality assurance- in short, a system of trauma care that is measurable, reproducible, and comprehensive.

Information About the ATLS® Program and Courses


  • Injury is precipitous and indiscriminate
  • The doctor who first attends to the injured patient has the greatest opportunity to impact outcome
  • The price of injury is excessive in dollars as well as human suffering


  • CME program developed by the ACS Committee on Trauma
  • One safe, reliable method for assessing and initially managing the trauma patient
  • Revised every 4 years to keep abreast of changes


  • Designed for doctors who care for injured patients
  • Standards for successful completion established for doctors
  • ACS verifies doctors' successful course completion


  • An organized approach for evaluation and management of seriously injured Patients
  • A foundation of common knowledge for all members of the trauma team
  • Applicable in both large urban centers and small rural emergency departments


  • Assess the patient's condition rapidly and accurately
  • Resuscitate and stabilize the patient according to priority
  • Determine if the patient's needs exceed a facility's capabilities
  • Arrange appropriately for the patient's definitive care
  • Ensure that optimum care is provided

Student Course:

  • Teaches medical core content in an interactive format
  • Hands-on skills sessions in simulated trauma settings
  • Successful completion status valid for 4 years from course date

Student Refresher Course:

  • Provides doctors the opportunity to maintain a current status
  • ½ day or 1-day course format
  • Content overview, triage scenarios, written and practical tests included

Instructor Course:

  • Student Course participants, identified as having instructor potential may advance to the Instructor Course within a specified timeframe
  • Teaches the doctor how to teach the ATLS® Student Course
  • Eligibility to participate is limited to doctors in countries where the program has been Introduced and promulgated by the ACS.


The American College of Surgeons is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

CME Credit:

The American College of Surgeons designates this educational activity for a maximum of * AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should only claim credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

*The maximum number of credits varies depending on the type of ATLS course.

Student and Instructor Re-verification:

If you have taken the Student Provider Course or have re-verified at the Student or Instructor level in the past four years, and are currently pursuing re-verification; please follow the steps as outlined in the 8th edition of the ATLS® Faculty Manual.

If you need further assistance, please contact the ATLS Office at 312/202-5160 or E-Mail at atls@facs.org.

The History of the ATLS® Program

The Beginning

In February 1976, a tragedy occurred that would change the first hour of trauma care for patients. Dr. Jim Styner, an orthopedic surgeon, crashed his small plane into a cornfield in rural Nebraska. Dr. Styner sustained serious injuries, three of his children sustained critical injuries, and one child sustained minor injuries. His wife was killed instantly. The care that he and his family received was less than adequate; it was evident that the small rural hospital and its staff had little or no preparation for a situation of this magnitude. There was an obvious lack of training for proper triage and injury treatment. The surgeon, recognizing how inadequate his treatment was stated," when I can provide better care in the field with limited resources that what my children and I received at the primary care facility, there is something wrong with the system and the system has to be changed."

Program Development

A new approach to the provision of care for individuals suffering major, life-threatening injury premiered in 1978, the year of the first ATLS Course. In January 1980, the American College of Surgeons introduced the ATLS Course in the U.S. and abroad. Canada joined the ATLS Program the following year. Several countries in Latin and South America joined the ACS Committee on Trauma in 1986 and introduced the ATLS Program in their region. Now, the ATLS program is found in over 50 countries. Under the auspices of the ACS Military Committee on Trauma, the program has been conducted for U.S. military doctors in the United States and around the world.

"For more than a quarter century, the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma has taught the ATLS course to over 1 million doctors in more than 50 countries. ATLS has become the foundation of care for injured patients by teaching a common language and a common approach. The 8th edition was created using an international, multidisciplinary, and evidence-based approach. The result is an ATLS that is contemporary and meaningful in the global community."

John Fildes, MD, FACS

Chair, American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.