Background: Most seriously wounded US Army casualties from the Iraqi theater of operations come through Walter Reed Army Medical Center on their return to the United States. General surgery and orthopaedic surgery services have developed a multidisciplinary team approach to triage and treatment of incoming casualties.
Study design: Prospective database of returning casualties to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) from March 1 to July 1, 2003.
Results: Of 294 casualties seen, 119 were triaged to inpatient status and treated within 1 hour of arrival; mean age 26.6 +/- 6.2 years (range 23 to 37). Time from original battlefield injury was a mean of 8 days (range 3 to 28 days). Forty-six (39%) sustained gunshot wounds, 37 (31%) sustained blast and shrapnel injuries, and 41 (34%) had blunt/motor vehicle collision mechanisms. There were a total of 184 wounded locations in these 119 casualties; of these, there were 29 head and neck, 25 chest, 20 abdomen, 74 lower extremity, and 36 upper extremity. Twenty-eight casualties (23%) required emergent surgical procedures on the night of arrival. Another 30 (25%) required an urgent surgical procedure within 48 hours of arrival.
Conclusions: Followup surgical procedures were urgently or emergently required in 43% of admitted battlefield casualties from OIF on transfer to Level V care in the continental United States. The injury pattern of wounds from this engagement is described. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center system of incoming battlefield casualty evaluation using multidisciplinary teams is successful in expediting care and ensuring evaluation of the full range of potential injuries.