Improved survival in UK combat casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan: 2003-2012

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2015 May;78(5):1014-20. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000000580.


Background: The United Kingdom was at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a decade. Despite assertions regarding advances in military trauma care during these wars, thus far, no studies have examined survival in UK troops during this sustained period of combat. The aims of this study were to examine temporal changes of injury patterns defined by body region and survival in a population of UK Military casualties between 2003 and 2012 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Methods: The UK Military Joint Theatre Trauma Registry was searched for all UK Military casualties (survivors and fatalities) sustained on operations between January 1, 2003, and December 31, 2012. The New Injury Severity Score (NISS) was used to stratify injury severity.

Results: There were 2,792 UK Military casualties sustaining 14,252 separate injuries during the study period. There were 608 fatalities (22% of all casualties). Approximately 70% of casualties injured in hostile action resulted from explosive munitions. The extremities were the most commonly injured body region, involved in 43% of all injuries. The NISS associated with a 50% chance of survival rose each year from 32 in 2003 to 60 in 2012.

Conclusion: An improvement in survival during the 10-year period is demonstrated. A majority of wounds are a result of explosive munitions, and the extremities are the most commonly affected body region. The authors recommend the development of more sophisticated techniques for the measuring of the performance of combat casualty care systems to include measures of morbidity and functional recovery as well as survival.

Level of evidence: Epidemiologic study, level III.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Afghan Campaign 2001-
  • Female
  • Forecasting*
  • Humans
  • Iraq War, 2003-2011
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Registries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Rate / trends
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality*