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Spinal Injury Incidence About 5 Percent in Iraq/Afghanistan

Last Updated: September 24, 2012.

 

Incidence of spinal injury among combat casualties mainly due to explosions

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The incidence of spinal trauma sustained by military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan is about 5 percent, according to a study published in the Sept. 19 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

MONDAY, Sept. 24 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of spinal trauma sustained by military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan is about 5 percent, according to a study published in the Sept. 19 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

Using data from the Joint Theater Trauma Registry, James A. Blair, M.D., from the Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, and colleagues identified all American military personnel who sustained injuries to the back, spinal column, and/or spinal cord in Iraq or Afghanistan from October 2001 to December 2009.

Of the 10,979 combat injuries that were evacuated, the researchers found that 598 casualties (5.45 percent) sustained 2,101 spinal injuries. Fifty-six percent of all spinal injuries were due to explosions, while motor vehicle collisions accounted for 29 percent, and gunshots for 15 percent. Of all the injuries, 92 percent were fractures, with the most common being transverse process, compression, and burst fractures. Spinal cord injuries were noted in 17 percent of the 598 patients. Injuries often occurred concomitantly in the abdomen, chest, head, and face.

"The results of this study support prior claims that the incidence of spinal injuries among combat casualties in the Global War on Terrorism are among the highest in American military medical history," the authors write. "Although survival rates for such wounds remain high, the devastating nature of these injuries imparts substantial disability, which must be borne by the wounded service members, their families, and the American health care system."

One or more of the authors disclosed a financial tie to an entity in the biomedical arena.

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