According to a recent study, if plastic surgeons are deployed as part of a military surgical team, they contribute a large proportion of the surgical activity.

The research, by Dr Shehan Hettiaratchy and colleagues from the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Birmingham, looked at the activity of British plastic surgeons deployed to a military hospital in Afghanistan (the Role 3 Medical Treatment Facility at Camp Bastion) from 2009 to 2012.

Overall, among the cases studied, 40% of them involved plastic surgeons. Most cases involved the limbs, reflecting the high rate of injuries from improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Other cases involved the head and neck, the face and eyes, and the trunk, explains a media release from Wolters Kluwer Health.

In about two-thirds of cases, plastic surgeons worked on teams alongside orthopedic and general surgeons. Plastic surgery involvement was similar for patients who were and were not wearing combat body armor when injured, per the release.

Most cases involved debridement, and relatively few involved surgery to save a limb or surgical reconstruction.

The need for plastic surgeons reflects the injury patterns sustained in modern warfare—particularly the multiple limb injuries caused by IEDs. “In previous conflicts, this severity of injury was not as survivable,” Hettiaratchy and his team write in the study, according to the release.

The release notes that advances in prehospital and acute care have increased the chances of survival for individuals with multiple severe injuries.

Survival is not enough for these injured fighters, according to the study. “It is essential that the maximum functional outcome is achieved for each injured limb,” Hettiaratchy and colleagues state in the study.

Per the release, while the study—published recently in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons—can’t prove that plastic surgery expertise improves patient outcomes, it supports the value of plastic surgeons in treating injuries consistent with modern combat.

[Source(s): Wolters Kluwer Health, Science Daily]