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Keywords:

  • Trauma;
  • neck;
  • airway;
  • midface;
  • mandible;
  • fracture;
  • Iraq;
  • Afghanistan;
  • improvised explosive device;
  • mass casualty

Objectives/Hypothesis

The objectives are to compare and contrast the head and neck trauma experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and to identify trauma lessons learned that are applicable to civilian practice.

Study Design

A retrospective review of one head and neck surgeon's operative experience in Iraq and Afghanistan was performed using operative logs and medical records.

Methods

The surgeon's daily operative log book with patient demographic data and operative reports was reviewed. Also, patient medical records were examined to identify the preoperative and postoperative course of care.

Results

The head and neck trauma experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan were very different, with a higher percentage of emergent cases performed in Iraq. In Iraq, only 10% of patients were pretreated at a facility with surgical capabilities. In Afghanistan, 93% of patients were pretreated at such facilities. Emergent neck exploration for penetrating neck trauma and emergent airway surgery were more common in Iraq, which most likely accounted for the increased perioperative mortality also seen in Iraq (5.3% in Iraq vs. 1.3% in Afghanistan). Valuable lessons regarding soft tissue trauma repair, midface fracture repair, and mandible fracture repair were learned.

Conclusion

The head and neck trauma experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan were very different, and the future training for mass casualty trauma events should reflect these differences. Furthermore, valuable head and neck trauma lessons learned in both war zones are applicable to the civilian practice of trauma.

Level of Evidence

Level 4. Laryngoscope, 123:2411–2417, 2013