Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wounded, Not Killed

Progress in keeping soldiers alive.  This article does a good job of detailing the trends--that more soldiers are surviving their wounds, that there are many more wounded soldiers, that some of these lives are severely damaged, and where the improvements might be coming from.  Again, I tend to be a bit too flippant about the costs of war, so I try to point to some of the better pieces that illustrate how costly war is.

One of the questions that has repeatedly come up in my research--are operations being kept within an hour of medical facilities to keep the KIA down.  This piece suggests that is not so much of an issue right now:
Within a half-hour of being wounded, a large fraction of troops now are en route to hospitals and being tended by flight medics. On repeated flights flown by the two journalists in May, June and December, some wounded soldiers were retrieved within 20 minutes of their injuries. None waited an hour.
Perhaps population centric warfare means more WIA since the operations are going to be close to the major bases rather than out in the hinterlands.  Wow, only took me about two years realize this.  Of course, having only six helos in the North meant that the Germans could not go very far.  Now that they are supplemented by Americans, we are seeing more activity up there.  It is not just about changing rules of engagement but changing the capabilities to facilitate more operations. 

And the good news from several bad years of war is that the medics are still learning:
For patients who reach NATO-run trauma centers, the overall survival rates have approached levels unseen in past wars. The staff said this was in part a result of the accumulated experience of surgical teams in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as shifts in how patients were treated.
For one example, Dr. Elster and Dr. Wirt said the military had dropped administering saline solutions to patients in favor of what they called “massive transfusion protocols” — giving enormous quantities of blood.
At the military hospital in Kandahar, 98 percent of Western troops that arrived alive last year did not die, the staff said. 
There is always room to get better.  Hopefully, these guys will get less practice.

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