Injuries from combat explosions in Iraq: injury type, location, and severity

Injury. 2012 Oct;43(10):1678-82. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2012.05.027. Epub 2012 Jul 4.


Introduction: Explosions have caused a greater percentage of injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan than in any other large-scale conflict. Improvements in body armour and field medical care have improved survival and changed the injury profile of service personnel. This study's objective was to determine the nature, body region, and severity of injuries caused by an explosion episode in male service personnel.

Materials and methods: A descriptive analysis was conducted of 4623 combat explosion episodes in Iraq between March 2004 and December 2007. The Barell matrix was used to describe the nature and body regions of injuries due to a combat explosion.

Results: A total of 17,637 International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes were assigned to the 4623 explosion episodes, with an average of 3.8 ICD-9 codes per episode. The most frequent single injury type was a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI; 10.8%). Other frequent injuries were open wounds in the lower extremity (8.8%) and open wounds of the face (8.2%), which includes tympanic membrane rupture. The extremities were the body regions most often injured (41.3%), followed by head and neck (37.4%) and torso (8.8%).

Conclusion: The results of this study support previous observations of TBI as a pre-eminent injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with mild TBI as the most common single injury in this large cohort of explosion episodes. The extremities had the highest frequency of injuries for any one body region. The majority of the explosion episodes resulted in more than one injury, and the variety of injuries across nearly every body region and injury type suggests a complex nature of explosion injuries. Understanding the constellation of injuries commonly caused by explosions will assist in the mitigation, treatment, and rehabilitation of the effects of these injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blast Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Blast Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Blast Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Explosions
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Iraq / epidemiology
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Male
  • Military Medicine
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult