Trauma is the most common cause of death for individuals under the age of forty, and the third most common cause of death at all ages. Prompt, appropriate care for these patients can save lives and shorten the recovery time from devastating injury. These patients are frequently young and resilient, and if optimally treated, many will return to their normal lives. The first few hours of care is crucial to obtain this outcome, but paradoxically in many countries, the most seriously ill or injured patients are frequently dealt with by the most junior and inexperienced staff. This is the first of a series of handbooks on Accident and Emergency Medicine. It reflects the growing interest and concern about trauma care and the important role of accident and emergency specialists in the early care of their patients.