Background: The mission of a Forward Surgical Team (FST) is to provide immediate lifesaving surgery to wounded U.S. and coalition forces. The degree of humanitarian surgical care provided to civilians is a topic of controversy.
Methods: From May 2011 to November 2011, the surgeons of the 126th FST provided humanitarian surgical care to Afghan civilians.
Results: The FST surgeons provided 553 surgical evaluations on 511 Afghan civilians. Of the patients, 95% were male and 38% were children. Forty percent of the clinic visits involved wound care and 20% involved a general surgery diagnosis. Seventeen percent involved an orthopedic diagnosis and 23% involved various surgical subspecialty diagnoses. Of the patients, 11% required a procedure necessitating the use of anesthesia. Interviews with Afghan patients and civic leaders identified a positive impact.
Conclusion: This is the first report of humanitarian surgical care provided by surgeons of a FST in Afghanistan. Time and resource investment was minimal with no evidence of a negative impact on the primary mission of the FST.
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