Military general surgical training opportunities on operations in Afghanistan

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2009 Jul;91(5):417-9. doi: 10.1308/003588409X432167.


Introduction: In the UK, general surgical specialist trainees have limited exposure to general surgical trauma. Previous work has shown that trainees are involved in only two blunt and one penetrating trauma laparotomies per annum. During their training, nearly half of trainees will not be involved in the surgical management of liver injury, 20% will not undertake a trauma splenectomy and only a quarter will see a trauma thoracotomy. Military general surgical trainees require training in, and exposure to, the surgical management of trauma and specifically military wounding patterns that is not available in the UK. The objective of this study was to determine whether operative workload in the sole British surgical unit in Helmand Province, Afghanistan (Operation HERRICK) would provide a training opportunity for military general surgical trainees.

Patients and methods: A retrospective theatre log-book review of all surgical cases performed at the Role 2 (Enhanced) treatment facility at Camp Bastion, Helmand Province on Operation HERRICK between October 2006 and October 2007, inclusive. Operative cases were analysed for general surgical trauma, laparotomy, thoracotomy, vascular trauma and specific organ injury management where available.

Results: A total of 968 operative cases were performed during the study period. General surgical procedures included 51 laparotomies, 17 thoracotomies and 11 vascular repairs. There were a further 70 debridements of general surgical wounds. Specific organ management included five cases of liver packing for trauma, five trauma splenectomies and four nephrectomies.

Conclusions: A training opportunity currently exists on Operation HERRICK for military general surgical specialist trainees. If the tempo of the last 12 months is maintained, a 2-month deployment would essentially provide trainees with the equivalent trauma surgery experience to the whole of their surgical training in the UK NHS. Trainees would gain experience in military trauma as well as specific organ injury management.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Clinical Competence
  • General Surgery / education*
  • General Surgery / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Military Medicine / education*
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery*
  • Traumatology / education
  • United Kingdom