The combat experience of military surgical assets in Iraq and Afghanistan: a historical review

Am J Surg. 2012 Sep;204(3):377-83. doi: 10.1016/j.amjsurg.2011.09.028. Epub 2012 Mar 20.


Background: The Forward Surgical Team and Combat Support Hospital have been used extensively only during the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan. The scope of their operational experience and historical development remain to be described.

Methods: The literature was searched to obtain publications regarding the historical development of Forward Surgical Teams and Combat Support Hospitals, as well as their surgical experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. Relevant publications were reviewed in full and their results summarized.

Results: The doctrine behind the use of modern military surgical assets was not well developed at the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. The Forward Surgical Team and Combat Support Hospital were used in practice only over the past decade. Because of the nature of these conflicts, both types of modern military surgical assets have not been used as intended and such units have operated in various roles, including combat support elements and civilian medical treatment facilities.

Conclusions: As more research comes to light, a better appreciation for the future of American military medicine and surgery will develop.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Afghanistan / epidemiology
  • Anesthesia, General / instrumentation
  • Anesthesia, General / methods
  • History, 21st Century
  • Hospitals, Military* / standards
  • Hospitals, Military* / trends
  • Humans
  • Iraq / epidemiology
  • Military Medicine* / methods
  • Military Medicine* / standards
  • Military Medicine* / trends
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / methods
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / mortality
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / standards
  • Surgical Procedures, Operative* / trends
  • Traumatology* / history
  • Traumatology* / methods
  • Traumatology* / standards
  • Traumatology* / trends
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Warfare*