Introduction: In 2010, the world witnessed 32 wars and other armed conflicts. Epidemiological analyses of mechanisms and patterns of injury of soldiers sent into these conflicts can be utilised to identify the surgical expertise that is required in a combat setting providing important parameters to adjust medical infrastructure and training requirements for future Military Surgeons.
Experiences: Today in 2011, the German Bundeswehr runs a combat support hospital (role 3) in Mazar-e-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan providing a multidisciplinary capability profile. Furthermore, there are two role 2 medical treatment facilities (rescue centres) in Kunduz and Feyzabad for life-saving procedures and damage control operations in order to enable rapid evacuation to a higher level of care. Epidemiological analyses of injury patterns and mechanisms have shown that 2,299 soldiers of the coalition forces have been killed in Afghanistan until January 15, 2011. Of these, 21.4% died in non-hostile action (2010). The leading causes of injury were explosive devices (up to 60%) followed by gunshot wounds. Chest or abdominal injuries (40%) and traumatic brain injuries (35%) were the main causes of death for soldiers killed in action. The analysis of all surgical procedures performed in Northern Afghanistan demonstrates that most of the patients who underwent surgery until 2009 were local civilians. Most of these operations involved osteosynthesis and soft tissue debridement. Due to the recently aggravated tactical situation within the theatre, a significant increase of mass casualty situations and combat-related injuries was noticed.
Discussion: The casualties in this military conflict present with injury patterns that are not seen in routine surgical practice at home. In an era of increasing surgical sub-specialisation, the deployed military surgeon needs to acquire and maintain a wide range of skills including a variety of surgical fields. In order to create this kind of military surgeon, the so-called DUO plus model for the training of military surgeons (specialisation general surgery plus a second sub-specialisation either in visceral surgery or orthopaedics/trauma surgery) has been developed in the Joint Medical Service of the German Bundeswehr. Other relevant skills, such as emergency neurotraumatology, battlefield surgery with integrated oral and craniomaxillofacial surgery, and emergency gynaecology are also integrated into this concept and will be addressed in special courses. On successful completion of this training programme, military surgeons will be officially appointed as "Einsatzchirurg" for a duration of 5 years. After this time, it will be obligatory to renew this "combat ready" status.
Conclusion: The buildings and materials in German military medical treatment facilities provide for excellent working conditions. The training programme for military surgeons in its end-2010 version has been designed specifically with data about injury pattern and non-battle diseases as well as the political situation and professional requirements in the civilian sphere in mind.