Thursday, December 09, 2004

More U.S. Soldiers Survive War Wounds

Medical WriterDecember 9, 2004, 8:17 AM EST

For every American soldier killed in Iraq, nine others have been wounded and survived -- the highest rate of any war in U.S. history.

It isn't that their injuries were less serious, a new report says. In fact, some young soldiers and Marines have had faces, arms and legs blown off and are now returning home badly maimed. But they have survived thanks, in part, to armor-like vests and fast treatment from doctors on the move with surgical kits in backpacks.

"This is unprecedented. People who lose not just one but two or three extremities are people who just have not survived in the past," said Dr. Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston who researched military medicine and wrote about it in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.

The journal also published a five-page spread of 21 military photographs that graphically depict the horrific injuries and conditions under which these modern-day MASH surgeons operate. "We thought a lot about it," said the journal's editor, Dr. Jeffrey Drazen, and ultimately decided the pictures told an important story.

"This war is producing unique injuries -- less lethal but more traumatic," he said.

In one traumatic case, Gawande tells of an airman who lost both legs, his right hand and part of his face.

"How he and others like him will be able to live and function remains an open question," Gawande writes. remains an open question," Gawande writes.

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