Jun 4, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
Excerpted from USA Today: BETHESDA, Md. – American troops are suffering more extensive physical damage — measured in lost arms and legs — to buried explosives in Afghanistan than ever before, according to data collected by the Army Surgeon General’s office.
This year through May, 60% of all combat amputation casualties in Afghanistan — 31 of 52 cases — were troops who lost two, three or four limbs, according to statistics. The vast majority are caused by makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the Army says.
In 2009, about one in four combat amputations involved multiple limb-loss. That increased to one in three in 2010 and nearly one in two last year, when there were a record 225 amputation cases in Afghanistan.
Half of the six American troops left quadruple amputees during 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered their wounds this year, data show.
Two lethal trends in Taliban bombmaking are larger explosives targeting U.S. foot patrols and bombs that have less metal and are more difficult to find with detection devices, says the Army and the Joint IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, the Pentagon’s lead agency for combating makeshift bombs.
“The blast is so devastating. You definitely see the more complex wounding,” says Army Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, who served as surgeon general to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan for several months ending in February.
Marine Lance Cpl. Sean Adams, 19, of Gainesville, Ga., lost both legs, and his right arm and both hands were maimed in a blast Feb. 10 in Helmand Province. A combat engineer who was leading a patrol with a metal detector, he walked onto an IED buried in a narrow goat path without realizing it.
“(It’s) not even a split-second. You got a pressure hitting your body. It’s just crazy,” says Adams, recuperating here at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. “Any time you take a step out there, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, am I about to step on a pressure plate or something?’ just because it’s so packed with IEDs.”
Military doctors studying wound patterns say it’s too early to tell whether this increase in severity will continue.
“It is a trend and certainly a trend worth watching,” says Army Col. Jeffrey Bailey, director of the Pentagon’s program for improving casualty care.
The military has responded by placing more highly skilled medical personnel on helicopters that retrieve wounded servicemembers from the battlefield, including critical care nurses from the Army and doctors and nurse anesthetists from the Air Force.
“We believe that by placing this higher-level medical capability farther forward faster, that we will be able to save the lives of more of these servicemembers,” says Brig. Gen. Bart Iddins, Air Force air mobility command surgeon.