Objectives Combat casualty care is a complex system involving multiple clinicians, medical interventions and casualty transfers. Improving the performance of this system requires examination of potential weaknesses. This study reviewed the cause and timing of death of casualties deemed to have died from their injuries after arriving at a medical treatment facility during the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, in order to identify potential areas for improving outcomes. Methods This was a retrospective review of all casualties who reached medical treatment facilities alive, but subsequently died from injuries sustained during combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It included all deaths from start to completion of combat operations. The UK military joint theatre trauma registry was used to identify cases, and further data were collected from clinical notes, postmortem records and coroner's reports. Results There were 71 combat-related fatalities who survived to a medical treatment facility; 17 (24%) in Iraq and 54 (76%) in Afghanistan. Thirty eight (54%) died within the first 24 h. Thirty-three (47%) casualties died from isolated head injuries, a further 13 (18%) had unsurvivable head injuries but not in isolation. Haemorrhage following severe lower limb trauma, often in conjunction with abdominal and pelvic injuries, was the cause of a further 15 (21%) deaths. Conclusions Severe head injury was the most common cause of death. Irrespective of available medical treatment, none of this group had salvageable injuries. Future emphasis should be placed in preventative strategies to protect the head against battlefield trauma.
Military casualties requiring intensive care were reviewed in a pilot follow-up clinic at approximately three to six months post discharge. All patients reviewed had suffered traumatic injuries in Afghanistan with a median New Injury Severity Score (NISS) of 41. Approximately 50% of casualties reviewed reported hallucinations while on ICU which were often intense and unpleasant. The predominant sedative agents used were morphine and midazolam. Occipital alopecia and pressure sores were reported as an unexpected finding in 35% of casualties. This appears to be permanent in 25% of cases and has required surgery in a small number of cases. Personality changes and anger are common and this cohort of patients can be sensitive to perceived stigmatising concerns regarding referral to psychiatric support services. Patient diaries, which were begun on intensive care in Afghanistan and continued through until discharge in the UK, were found to be very helpful. A significant proportion of clinic attendees thought the pilot clinic was helpful with a quarter of survey responders finding it very helpful. However, this was commonly based on the perception that they were helping the defence medical services improve delivery of care.
The early development of the UK Role 4 pain service has already been described. This article will describe developments up to October 2010, and present the results of projects used in assessing the effect of this service.
The contribution of anaesthesia to the care of injured military personnel at Role 4 is described with particular emphasis on the working relationship between the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and the civilian department of anaesthesia. The implications for operating theatre activity are discussed.
IntroductionThis paper examines the pain management, from surgery to specialist rehabilitation, of the first seven military transfemoral amputee patients treated in the UK with femoral osseointegration. All the patients had sustained complex ballistic injuries on the battlefield. The patients were characterised by long-standing problems with functional rehabilitation due to limitations with conventional prostheses, including stump soft tissue issues and impaired biomechanics.MethodsA prospective service investigation was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness of the pain management of patients undergoing osseointegration. Data were collected by daily direct patient contact, supplemented by a focused review of perioperative and rehabilitation case notes. Physiological and medication details were recorded with specific reference to systemic and regional analgesia and the impact of postoperative complications, including infection and accidental injury.ResultsSeven patients underwent femoral osseointegration and were followed up for a period of up to 3 years following surgery. The perioperative recovery was associated with significant escalation of analgesic requirements. Postoperative systemic inflammatory response syndrome was identified in six patients, with wound infection persisting in some cases into the rehabilitation phase. Three patients suffered femoral fractures following accidental injuries secondary to increased mobilisation following surgery.ConclusionsSuccessful surgical outcomes were achieved in a difficult patient cohort disadvantaged by previously restricted functional recovery from complex injuries. The importance of supporting the operative and recovery phases with a multidisciplinary pain service is emphasised. We offer this data and the lessons learnt to assist clinicians contemplating the establishment and service development of osseointegration services.
With the exception of the epidural (34%) and proximal sciatic (42%) catheters, these figures, in a military cohort characterised by significant injury scores, are consistent with those reported for civilian surgical patients. The results strongly support the expansion of regional analgesia during Op HERRICK from 2008 onwards. The outcomes suggest a possible translation into civilian major trauma practice.
The Defence Medical Services (DMS) of the United Kingdom (UK) assumed command of the Role 3 Medical Treatment Facility field hospital during Operation HERRICK in Afghanistan from April 2006 until the final drawdown in November 2014. The signature injury sustained by coalition personnel during this period was traumatic amputation from improvised explosive devices. Many patients who had suffered extensive tissue damage experienced both nociceptive and neuropathic pain (NeuP). This presented as a heterogeneous collection of symptoms that are resistant to treatment. This paper discusses the relationship of NeuP in the context of ballistic injury, drawing in particular on clinical experience from the UK mission to Afghanistan, Operation HERRICK. The role of this paper is to describe the difficulties of assessment, treatment and research of NeuP and make recommendations for future progress within the DMS.
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