Battlefield analgesia: a brief review of current trends and concepts in the treatment of pain in US military casualties from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan

Pain Manag. 2012 May;2(3):231-8. doi: 10.2217/pmt.12.18.


SUMMARY Battlefield analgesia and post-injury pain management is a high priority within the military medical community. The combined military services of the USA have developed a Pain Task Force and clinical practice guidelines to ensure that adequate analgesia is provided to our wounded soldiers as far forward as the point of injury on the battlefield. As a result of this emphasis, novel analgesic techniques and equipment have led to improved pain management. Continuous peripheral nerve blocks, intranasal ketamine, battlefield acupuncture and other adjuncts have all been utilized safely and successfully. The ability to provide rapid analgesia as early in the course of injury as possible not only helps with the immediate pain of the soldier, but potentially minimizes the risk of developing chronic postinjury pain. During the long medical evacuation system the risks of both undertreatment and overtreatment of pain are very real. Future studies and observation will help to delineate best treatment regimens and pave the way for the next generation of medical providers to positively impact a soldier's recovery. This article is written from the perspective of the USA with a focus on the conflicts in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom).