The nature and extent of war injuries sustained by combat specialty personnel killed and wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, 2003–2011


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Abstract

BACKGROUNDPrevious studies regarding combat wounding have a limited translational capacity due to inclusion of soldiers from all military branches and occupational specialties as well as a lack of information regarding soldiers who died in theater.METHODSA search was performed of the Department of Defense Trauma Registry and Armed Forces Medical Examiner data set for the years 2003 to 2011 to identify all injured personnel with the military specialty 19D (cavalry scout). A manual search was conducted for each record identified, and age, rank, location and manner of injury, mechanism of injury, Injury Severity Score (ISS), and extent of wounding were abstracted. The incidence of injuries by body region and rates for specific types of wounds were determined. Statistically significant associations between rank, location of injury, manner of injury, body region involved, and injury mechanism were assessed using χ2 analysis. Associations between ISS, rank, manner of injury, and survival were evaluated by t test with Satterthwaite correction.RESULTSA total of 701 casualties were identified with 3,189 distinct injuries. Mean (SD) age of injured personnel was 25.9 (6.0) years. Thirty-five percent of the cohort was composed of soldiers who died in theater. Explosions were the most common mechanism of injury (70%), while 18% of wounds occurred owing to gunshot. Extremity wounds and injuries to the head and neck represented 34% of casualty burden. Thoracic trauma occurred in 16%, and abdominal injuries occurred in 17%. Wounds with a frequency exceeding 5% included skin, extremity, facial, brain, and gastrointestinal injuries. Vascular injury occurred in 4%. Gunshot wounds were a greater cause of injury in Afghanistan (p = 0.001) and resulted in a higher percentage of thoracic injuries (p < 0.001).CONCLUSIONThe nature and extent of trauma sustained by combat-specific personnel seems to be different from that experienced by all soldiers deployed to a war zone.LEVEL OF EVIDENCEEpidemiologic/prognostic study, level III.

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