Spine and spinal cord war injuries during the war in Croatia

Mil Med. 1998 Dec;163(12):847-9.


Objective: The present report summarizes the experience of an evacuation hospital in southern Croatia in treating 96 patients with spine and spinal cord war injuries.

Methods: A retrospective review was done for 96 wounded persons (86 soldiers, 10 civilians) with spinal cord injuries from August 1991 through December 1995. The ages ranged from 15 to 59 years (mean, 28.3 years for soldiers, 38.5 years for civilians). Diagnostic procedures were plain radiography, computed tomography, and computed tomographic myelography. However, in most cases a more conservative surgical approach was used.

Results: The highest rates of admittance were recorded in 1992 (N = 38) and 1993 (N = 47). The lumbar spine was injured in 55% of the patients, the cervical and thoracic spines in 17.7%. All injuries were caused by projectiles from automatic rifles and sniper fire (51%) and from fragments of explosive devices (49%). Blast injury of the spinal cord was found in 10 patients. The most frequent complications caused by the fragments were wound infection, urinary tract infection, decubitus, and pneumonia. Four patients (4.2%) died in the hospital, and 43.0% of patients survived but were severely handicapped.

Conclusion: Careful clinical examination combined with modern diagnostic imaging and use of broad-spectrum antibiotics reduced the need for surgical intervention in patients with spinal cord injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Croatia
  • Hospitals, Military
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Medicine / methods
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / therapy*
  • Spinal Injuries / complications
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Injuries / therapy*
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States / ethnology
  • Warfare*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Penetrating / diagnosis*
  • Wounds, Penetrating / therapy*