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      Death on the battlefield (2001–2011) : Implications for the future of combat casualty care

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          Abstract

          Critical evaluation of all aspects of combat casualty care, including mortality, with a special focus on the incidence and causes of potentially preventable deaths among US combat fatalities, is central to identifying gaps in knowledge, training, equipment, and execution of battlefield trauma care. The impetus to produce this analysis was to develop a comprehensive perspective of battlefield death, concentrating on deaths that occurred in the pre-medical treatment facility (pre-MTF) environment. The Armed Forces Medical Examiner Service Mortality Surveillance Division was used to identify Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom combat casualties from October 2001 to June 2011 who died from injury in the deployed environment. The autopsy records, perimortem records, photographs on file, and Mortality Trauma Registry of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner Service were used to compile mechanism of injury, cause of injury, medical intervention performed, Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) score, and Injury Severity Score (ISS) on all lethal injuries. All data were used by the expert panel for the conduct of the potential for injury survivability assessment of this study. For the study interval between October 2001 and June 2011, 4,596 battlefield fatalities were reviewed and analyzed. The stratification of mortality demonstrated that 87.3% of all injury mortality occurred in the pre-MTF environment. Of the pre-MTF deaths, 75.7% (n = 3,040) were classified as nonsurvivable, and 24.3% (n = 976) were deemed potentially survivable (PS). The injury/physiologic focus of PS acute mortality was largely associated with hemorrhage (90.9%). The site of lethal hemorrhage was truncal (67.3%), followed by junctional (19.2%) and peripheral-extremity (13.5%) hemorrhage. Most battlefield casualties died of their injuries before ever reaching a surgeon. As most pre-MTF deaths are nonsurvivable, mitigation strategies to impact outcomes in this population need to be directed toward injury prevention. To significantly impact the outcome of combat casualties with PS injury, strategies must be developed to mitigate hemorrhage and optimize airway management or reduce the time interval between the battlefield point of injury and surgical intervention.Understanding battlefield mortality is a vital component of the military trauma system. Emphasis on this analysis should be placed on trauma system optimization, evidence-based improvements in Tactical Combat Casualty Care guidelines, data-driven research, and development to remediate gaps in care and relevant training and equipment enhancements that will increase the survivability of the fighting force.

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          Most cited references 21

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          Military Application of Tranexamic Acid in Trauma Emergency Resuscitation (MATTERs) Study.

          To characterize contemporary use of tranexamic acid (TXA) in combat injury and to assess the effect of its administration on total blood product use, thromboembolic complications, and mortality. Retrospective observational study comparing TXA administration with no TXA in patients receiving at least 1 unit of packed red blood cells. A subgroup of patients receiving massive transfusion (≥10 units of packed red blood cells) was also examined. Univariate and multivariate regression analyses were used to identify parameters associated with survival. Kaplan-Meier life tables were used to report survival. A Role 3 Echelon surgical hospital in southern Afghanistan. A total of 896 consecutive admissions with combat injury, of which 293 received TXA, were identified from prospectively collected UK and US trauma registries. Mortality at 24 hours, 48 hours, and 30 days as well as the influence of TXA administration on postoperative coagulopathy and the rate of thromboembolic complications. The TXA group had lower unadjusted mortality than the no-TXA group (17.4% vs 23.9%, respectively; P = .03) despite being more severely injured (mean [SD] Injury Severity Score, 25.2 [16.6] vs 22.5 [18.5], respectively; P < .001). This benefit was greatest in the group of patients who received massive transfusion (14.4% vs 28.1%, respectively; P = .004), where TXA was also independently associated with survival (odds ratio = 7.228; 95% CI, 3.016-17.322) and less coagulopathy (P = .003). The use of TXA with blood component-based resuscitation following combat injury results in improved measures of coagulopathy and survival, a benefit that is most prominent in patients requiring massive transfusion. Treatment with TXA should be implemented into clinical practice as part of a resuscitation strategy following severe wartime injury and hemorrhage.
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            Causes of death in U.S. Special Operations Forces in the global war on terrorism: 2001-2004.

            Effective combat trauma management strategies depend upon an understanding of the epidemiology of death on the battlefield. A panel of military medical experts reviewed photographs and autopsy and treatment records for all Special Operations Forces (SOF) who died between October 2001 and November 2004 (n = 82). Fatal wounds were classified as nonsurvivable or potentially survivable. Training and equipment available at the time of injury were taken into consideration. A structured analysis was conducted to identify equipment, training, or research requirements for improved future outcomes. Five (6%) of 82 casualties had died in an aircraft crash, and their bodies were lost at sea; autopsies had been performed on all other 77 soldiers. Nineteen deaths, including the deaths at sea were noncombat; all others were combat related. Deaths were caused by explosions (43%), gunshot wounds (28%), aircraft accidents (23%), and blunt trauma (6%). Seventy of 82 deaths (85%) were classified as nonsurvivable; 12 deaths (15%) were classified as potentially survivable. Of those with potentially survivable injuries, 16 causes of death were identified: 8 (50%) truncal hemorrhage, 3 (19%) compressible hemorrhage, 2 (13%) hemorrhage amenable to tourniquet, and 1 (6%) each from tension pneumothorax, airway obstruction, and sepsis. The population with nonsurvivable injuries was more severely injured than the population with potentially survivable injuries. Structured analysis identified improved methods of truncal hemorrhage control as a principal research requirement. The majority of deaths on the modern battlefield are nonsurvivable. Improved methods of intravenous or intracavitary, noncompressible hemostasis combined with rapid evacuation to surgery may increase survival.
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              Survival with emergency tourniquet use to stop bleeding in major limb trauma.

              The purpose of this study was to determine if emergency tourniquet use saved lives. Tourniquets have been proposed as lifesaving devices in the current war and are now issued to all soldiers. Few studies, however, describe their actual use in combat casualties. A prospective survey of injured who required tourniquets was performed over 7 months in 2006 (NCT00517166 at ClinicalTrials.gov). Follow-up averaged 28 days. The study was at a combat support hospital in Baghdad. Among 2,838 injured and admitted civilian and military casualties with major limb trauma, 232 (8%) had 428 tourniquets applied on 309 injured limbs. We looked at emergency tourniquet use, and casualties were evaluated for shock (weak or absent radial pulse) and prehospital versus emergency department (ED) tourniquet use. We also looked at those casualties indicated for tourniquets but had none used. We assessed survival rates and limb outcome. There were 31 deaths (13%). Tourniquet use when shock was absent was strongly associated with survival (90% vs. 10%; P < 0.001). Prehospital tourniquets were applied in 194 patients of which 22 died (11% mortality), whereas 38 patients had ED application of which 9 died (24% mortality; P = 0.05). The 5 casualties indicated for tourniquets but had none used had a survival rate of 0% versus 87% for those casualties with tourniquets used (P < 0.001). Four patients (1.7%) sustained transient nerve palsy at the level of the tourniquet. No amputations resulted solely from tourniquet use. Tourniquet use when shock was absent was strongly associated with saved lives, and prehospital use was also strongly associated with lifesaving. No limbs were lost due to tourniquet use. Education and fielding of prehospital tourniquets in the military environment should continue.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
                Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
                Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health)
                2163-0755
                2012
                December 2012
                : 73
                : S431-S437
                Article
                10.1097/TA.0b013e3182755dcc
                23192066
                © 2012

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