Pediatric wartime admissions to US military combat support hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq: learning from the first 2,000 admissions

J Trauma. 2009 Oct;67(4):762-8. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e31818b1e15.


Background: Humanitarian and civilian emergency care accounts for up to one-third of US military combat support hospital (CSH) admissions. Almost half of these admissions are children. The purpose of this study is to describe the features of pediatric wartime admissions to deployed CSHs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Methods: A retrospective database review was conducted using the Patient Administration Systems and Biostatistics Activity. Details of 2,060 pediatric admissions to deployed CSHs were analyzed.

Results: Nontraumatic diagnoses were responsible for 25% of all pediatric admissions. Penetrating injuries (76.3%) dominate the trauma admissions. The primary mechanisms of injury were gunshot wound (39%) followed by explosive injuries (32%). Categorizing the injuries by location revealed 38.3% extremity wounds, 23.6% torso injuries, 23.5% head, face, and neck injuries, and 13.3% burns. More than half of the children required two or more invasive or surgical procedures, 19.8% needed a transfusion, and 5.6% required mechanical ventilation. The mortality rate was 6.9%. The primary cause of death involved head trauma (29.5%) and burns (27.3%), followed by infectious diagnoses (7.2%). The case fatality rate for head injury and burn patients was 20.1% and 15.9%, respectively, in contrast to the fatality rate for all other diagnoses at 3.8% (p < 0.01). Excluding emergency department deaths, mortality rates for Afghanistan (6.2%) and Iraq (3.9%) significantly differ (p < 0.02).

Conclusion: Pediatric patients account for approximately 10% of all CSH admissions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Burns and penetrating head injury account for the majority of pediatric mortality at the CSH.

MeSH terms

  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Child
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / mortality
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Military / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Length of Stay
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / epidemiology