Background: Renal replacement therapy has been used by the U.S. Army at the combat support hospital echelon of care since the Korean conflict. Although there has been a general decline in the incidence of wartime acute kidney injury, the mortality associated with acute kidney injury and the use of renal replacement therapy remain unchanged, in the range of 60% to 80%. The U.S. Army official doctrine is that field dialysis is provided through a specialized Hospital Augmentation Team; however, this team has not been deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan as a result of the ability to rapidly evacuate most cases requiring renal replacement therapy. The history of wartime renal replacement therapy is reviewed along with the general epidemiology of battlefield acute kidney injury and renal replacement therapy.
Discussion: Recent literature documents cases of renal replacement therapy performed in and out of theater in support of the current operations. In-theater renal replacement therapy has been provided through a variety of modalities, including conventional hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, and both continuous venovenous and continuous arteriovenous hemodialysis. Out of theater, casualties have received both intermittent and continuous hemodialysis at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, whereas patients sustaining burns have undergone aggressive continuous venovenous hemofiltration or hemodiafiltration at Brooke Army Medical Center.
Summary: Acute kidney injury requiring renal replacement therapy in wartime casualties is an uncommon occurrence but one with extremely high mortality. Future doctrine should be prepared for contingencies in which the incidence may be increased as a result of mass crush injury casualties or prolonged evacuation times.