Objective: To evaluate the effect of blast in common war injuries.
Methods: One thousand three hundred and three patients injured by explosive munitions and demonstrating extremity wounds without other penetrating injuries were admitted to the Military Medical Academy in Belgrade between 1991 and 1994. Of these, 665 patients (51%) had symptoms and physical signs that were compatible with the clinical diagnosis of primary blast injury, whereas the remaining 658 patients did not.
Results: Random sampling of 65 patients in the blast group during the early posttraumatic period showed statistically significant elevations in blood thromboxane A2 (TxA2), prostacyclin (PGI2), and sulfidopeptide leukotrienes compared with the random sample of 62 patients in the nonblast group. This difference could not be accounted for by differing injury severity between the groups, because the severity of wounds as measured by both the Injury Severity Score and the Red Cross Wound Classification was similar in both groups. Amongst blast patients, 200 patients (30%) had long-term (1 year) symptoms and signs reflecting central nervous system disorders. These symptoms and signs were only sporadically found in 4% of the nonblast patients. These findings indicate that primary blast injury is more common in war injuries than previously thought and that of those affected by blast, a surprisingly high proportion retain long-term neurologic disability. The elevation in eicosanoids could be used to confirm and monitor blast injury.
Conclusion: In relation to the immediate management of patients injured by explosive weapons, it follows that particular attention should be paid to the presence and/or development of blast injury. Our findings indicate that blast is more common in war injuries than previously thought. Eicosanoid changes after blast injury suggest that blast injury causes a major physiologic stress. A variety of effects on the central nervous system suggest that blast injury could be responsible for some aspects of what is now considered to be the posttraumatic stress disorder.