Combat musculoskeletal wounds in a US Army brigade combat team during Operation Iraqi Freedom
Belmont, Philip J., Jr.
Goodman, Gens P.
Schoenfeld, Andrew J.
Owens, Brett D.
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Background: A prospective, longitudinal analysis of musculoskeletal combat injuries sustained by a large combat-deployed maneuver unit has not previously been performed. Methods: A detailed description of the musculoskeletal combat casualty care statistics, distribution of wounds, and mechanisms of injury incurred by a US Army Brigade Combat Team during “The Surge” phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom was performed using a centralized casualty database and an electronic medical record system. Results: Among the 4,122 soldiers deployed, there were 242 musculoskeletal combat wounds in 176 combat casualties. The musculoskeletal combat casualty rate for the Brigade Combat Team was 34.2 per 1,000 soldier combat-years. Spine, pelvis, and long bone fractures comprised 55.9% (33 of 59) of the total fractures sustained in combat. Explosions accounted for 80.7% (142 of 176) of all musculoskeletal combat casualties. Musculoskeletal combat casualty wound incidence rates per 1,000 combat-years were as follows: major amputation, 2.1; minor amputation, 0.6; open fracture, 5.0; closed fracture, 6.4; and soft-tissue/neurovascular injury, 32.8. Among musculoskeletal combat casualties, the likelihood of a gunshot wound causing an open fracture was significantly greater (45.8% [11 of 24]) when compared with explosions (10.6% [15 of 142]) (p 0.0006). Long bone amputations were more often caused by explosive mechanisms than gunshot wounds. Conclusions: A large burden of complex orthopedic injuries has resulted from the combat experience in Operation Iraqi Freedom. This is because of increased enemy reliance on explosive devices, the use of individual and vehicular body armor, and improved survivability of combat-injured soldiers.
The article of record as published may be found at http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/TA.0b013e3181edebed
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