BACKGROUND: Airway management is of critical importance in combat trauma patients. Airway compromise is the second leading cause of potentially survivable death on the battlefield and accounts for approximately 1 in 10 preventable deaths. Reports from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars indicate 4% to 7% incidence of airway interventions on casualties transported to combat hospitals. The goal of this study was to describe airway management in the prehospital combat setting and document airway devices used on the battlefield. METHODS: This study is a retrospective review of casualties that required a prehospital lifesaving airway intervention during combat operations in Afghanistan. We obtained data from the Prehospital Trauma Registry that was linked to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry for outcome data for the time period between January 2013 and September 2014. RESULTS: Seven hundred five total trauma patients were included, 16.9% required a prehospital airway management procedure. There were 132 total airway procedures performed, including 83 (63.4%) endotracheal intubations and 26 (19.8%) nasopharyngeal airway placements. Combat medics were involved in 48 (36.4%) of airway cases and medical officers in 73 (55.3%). Most (94.2%) patients underwent airway procedures due to battle injuries caused by explosion or gunshot wounds. Casualties requiring airway management were more severely injured and less likely to survive as indicated by Injury Severity Score, responsiveness level, Glascow Coma Scale, and outcome. CONCLUSION: Percentages of airway interventions more than tripled from previous reports from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. These changes are significant, and further study is needed to determine the causes. Casualties requiring airway interventions sustained more severe injuries and experienced lower survival than patients who did not undergo an airway procedure, findings suggested in previous reports. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Prognostic and epidemiological study, level III.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine