From Baghdad to Boston: International Transfer of Burned Children in Time of War

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A large portion of the casualties admitted to military hospitals on the battlefield in Iraq consists of children, of whom 13% had burns. The U.S. Army Combat Support Hospital (CSH) in Baghdad, faced with an influx of such patients, successfully transferred selected burned children by commercial airlines to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston, Massachusetts (SHC-B). The authors aimed to document this process, from both an ethical and a procedural standpoint. Care was conducted in six phases: 1) admission to the CSH; 2) selection for transfer; 3) burn care at the CSH; 4) travel to the United States; 5) burn care at the SHC-B; 6) return to Iraq. Transfer and SHC-B care were funded by charitable organizations. A review of patient records was performed. Eight acutely burned pediatric patients participated in this program. All were successfully transferred, treated at SHC-B, and returned to Iraq. They ranged in age from 1.7 to 17 years and in burn size from 6 to 53% of the TBSA. At SHC-B, the hospital length of stay was 14 to 132 days; up to 23 visits to the operating room were performed for acute and reconstructive burn surgery. The cost of war includes the care of injured civilians, and includes burned children. For selected patients, transfer out of the combat zone is one method of fulfilling this obligation.

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