Characterization of extremity wounds in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom

J Orthop Trauma. 2007 Apr;21(4):254-7. doi: 10.1097/BOT.0b013e31802f78fb.


Objectives: Extremity wounds and fractures traditionally comprise the majority of traumatic injuries in US armed conflicts. Little has been published regarding the extremity wounding patterns and fracture distribution in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The intent of this study was to describe the distribution of extremity fractures during this current conflict.

Design: Descriptive epidemiologic study.

Methods: The Joint Theater Trauma Registry was queried for all US service members receiving treatment for wounds (ICD-9 codes 800-960) sustained in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) from October 2001 through January 2005. Returned-to-duty and nonbattle injuries were excluded. Wounds were classified according to region and type. Extremity wounds were analyzed in detail and compared to published results from previous conflicts.

Results: A total of 1281 soldiers sustained 3575 extremity combat wounds. Fifty-three percent of these were penetrating soft-tissue wounds and 26% were fractures. Of the 915 fractures, 758 (82%) were open fractures. The 915 fractures were evenly distributed between the upper (461, 50%) and lower extremities (454, 50%). The most common fracture in the upper extremity was in the hand (36%) and in the lower extremity was the tibia and fibula (48%). Explosive munitions accounted for 75% of the mechanisms of injury.

Conclusions: The burden of wounds sustained in OIF/OEF is extremity injuries, specifically soft-tissue wounds and fractures. These results are similar to the reported casualties from previous wars.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Extremities / injuries*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Iraq
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Trauma Severity Indices
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds and Injuries* / classification
  • Wounds and Injuries* / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries* / etiology