An Analysis of 13 Years of Prehospital Combat Casualty Care: Implications for Maintaining a Ready Medical Force

Steven G. Schauer, Jason F. Naylor, Andrew D. Fisher, Michael D. April, Ronnie Hill, Kennedy Mdaki, Tyson E. Becker, Vikhyat S. Bebarta, James Bynum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Most potentially preventable deaths occur in the prehospital setting before reaching a military treatment facility with surgical capabilities. Thus, optimizing the care we deliver in the prehospital combat setting represents a ripe target for reducing mortality. We sought to analyze prehospital data within the Department of Defense Trauma Registry (DODTR). Materials and methods: We requested all encounters with any prehospital activity (e.g., interventions, transportation, vital signs) documented within the DODTR from January 2007 to March 2020 along with all hospital-based data that was available. We excluded from our search casualties that had no prehospital activity documented. Results: There were 28,950 encounters that met inclusion criteria. Of these, 25,897 (89.5%) were adults and 3053 were children (10.5%). There was a steady decline in the number of casualties encountered with the most notable decline occurring in 2014. U.S. military casualties comprised the largest proportion (n = 10,182) of subjects followed by host nation civilians (n = 9637). The median age was 24 years (interquartile range/IQR 21–29). Most were battle injuries (78.6%) and part of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (61.8%) and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (24.4%). Most sustained injuries from explosives (52.1%) followed by firearms (28.1%), with serious injury to the extremities (24.9%) occurring most frequently. The median injury severity score was 9 (IQR 4–16) with most surviving to discharge (95.0%). A minority had a documented medic or combat lifesaver (27.9%) in their chain of care, nor did they pass through an aid station (3.0%). Air evacuation predominated (77.9%). Conclusions: Within our dataset, the deployed U.S. military medical system provided prehospital medical care to at least 28,950 combat casualties consisting mostly of U.S. military personnel and host nation civilian care. There was a rapid decline in combat casualty volumes since 2014, however, on a per-encounter basis there was no apparent drop in procedural volume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPrehospital Emergency Care
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • battlefield
  • casualty
  • combat
  • military
  • prehospital

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency

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