Background: There have been no large cohort reports detailing the wounding patterns and mechanisms in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Methods: The Joint Theater Trauma Registry was queried for all US service members receiving treatment for wounds (International Classification of Diseases-9th Rev. codes 800-960) sustained in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom from October 2001 through January 2005. Returned-to-duty and nonbattle injuries were excluded from final analysis.
Results: This query resulted in 3,102 casualties, of which 31% were classified as nonbattle injuries and 18% were returned-to-duty within 72 hours. A total of 1,566 combatants sustained 6,609 combat wounds. The locations of these wounds were as follows: head (8%), eyes (6%), ears (3%), face (10%), neck (3%), thorax (6%), abdomen (11%), and extremity (54%). The proportion of head and neck wounds is higher (p < 0.0001) than the proportion experienced in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam wars (16%-21%). The proportion of thoracic wounds is a decrease (p < 0.0001) from World War II and Vietnam (13%). The proportion of gunshot wounds was 18%, whereas the proportion sustained from explosions was 78%.
Conclusions: The wounding patterns currently seen in Iraq and Afghanistan resemble the patterns from previous conflicts, with some notable exceptions: a greater proportion of head and neck wounds, and a lower proportion of thoracic wounds. An explosive mechanism accounted for 78% of injuries, which is the highest proportion seen in any large-scale conflict.