About Extreme Environmental Medicine

Extreme environmental medicine requires a paradigm shift for physicians: in extreme environments, patients experience problems that result from a combination of issues related to abnormal anatomy, physiology, and/or the environment itself.  Extreme environmental medicine incorporates extreme, unusual, and remote environments as well as in disaster response; environmental conditions include those found on land, at sea, and in the air.

In order to manage these types of challenges, extreme environmental medicine physicians must consider a number of factors. First, the types of medical issues encountered by patients in these environments can be unique, such as decompression illness, acute mountain sickness, snake envenomations, etc. Second, whilst in the extreme environment, there will likely be a significant paucity of resources available on hand that can be used at the time of the medical emergency. Third, given that most of these environments are very remote, there will be an inherent lack of access to definitive care (e.g. a hospital) in a timely manner. Fourth, these extreme environmental medicine physicians may have to display substantial clinical autonomy, as consultations with other medical experts may not be possible. Finally, depending on the nature of the environment, evacuation and transport of ill or injured patients may be a necessity. 

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