US army surgeons save 9 out of 10 casualties due to advancements in
care and technology
20 January 2005
According to a report in the December 9, 2004 issue of the New England
Journal of Medicine, 90% of casualties have survived during Operation
Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, up from a 76% casualty
survival rate in Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War.
The article, Casualties of War — Military Care for the Wounded from
Iraq and Afghanistan, states the dramatic increase in survival is due in
part to a significant effort by the US Army Health Care team to overhaul
battlefield techniques and implement new surgical teams, as well as advanced
technology and new armour.
"The Army Health Care team has made a commitment to aggressive surgical
care," says Col. Thomas Knuth, surgical consultant to the Army Medical
Department (AMEDD) Center and School, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "We've used
this aggressive mindset to address lessons learned quickly and completely,
to get surgical providers trained and ready. Rapid transport in forward
surgical teams ensures the best care in the world on the battlefield. Our
receive the best reconstructive and rehabilitation care in the world in the
According to the report, the average time for transportation from the
front line to a US hospital has decreased significantly — from 45 days in
Vietnam to four days or less in the Global War on Terrorism. The Army's new
forward surgical teams (FSTs), developed after the Persian Gulf War, are the
primary source of immediate medical care for soldiers on the battlefield,
assessing and treating injured soldiers before they are transported to field
hospitals for long-term care. Each team consists of three general
surgeons, one orthopaedic surgeon, two nurse anaesthetists, three nurses, as
well as, combat medics and support personnel.
"You have the cream of the crop when you're looking at a forward surgical
team," Says Sgt 1st Class Jeffery Pinnell, instructor, AMEDD Center and
School, Fort Sam Houston, Texas. "It's definitely the wave of the future.
They can provide faster medical treatment than anything else in the world."
In addition to implementing new surgical teams, the Army Health Care team
researches the latest improvements in medical technique and technology,
ensuring surgeons have all the supplies and support they need to rapidly
treat patients and extend the "golden hour" for treatment. In locations such
as Fort Sam Houston's Institute for Surgical Research and Washington, DC's
Walter Reed Army Medical Center, teams of Army researchers pioneer
procedures that will save lives and limbs.
"Medically, things have gotten smaller, more miniscule in recent years —
I can walk around with an ultrasound in my pocket," says US Army Reserve Maj
Edgar Chauvin, 936th Forward Surgical Team cardiovascular surgeon and
commander. "The Army has devices, such as the one-tent hospital, that
can do just about everything. We have ultrasound and lab capabilities in the
field. We have new IVs without poles. Big battles don't exist anymore, so
the Army may not need a whole hospital — but we need to fix soldiers and get
them back rapidly. And that's what we've accomplished."
full article in the New England Journal of Medicine