Combat Support Hospital Still Saving Lives

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, May 19, 2006 - Traumatic injuries are a tragic fact of life in war. But thanks to the efforts of military medical personnel here, wounded servicemembers have the best chance of surviving their injuries than in any previous conflict.

"It's like the TV show 'Survivor,'" said Army Dr. (Lt. Col.) Mark Smith. "The characters change each season, but the premise remains the same."

Smith is part of the 10th Combat Support Hospital based at Ibn Sina Hospital in the International Zone here. The previous unit at Ibn Sina - the 86th Combat Support Hospital - is featured in an HBO documentary "Baghdad ER," which premiers on the cable network May 21. The show depicts the way Army medics care for, treat and save servicemembers wounded in Iraq.

The 10th receives about 20 people a day, and treats coalition servicemembers, Iraqi soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The staff also gives medical care to wounded insurgents.

Smith, the hospital's deputy commander for clinical services, said the 10th treats more than half of the trauma victims in Iraq.

"The effects of (improvised explosive devices) and gunshots produce most of the casualties," he said. "IEDs have developed to an extent that they are delivering devastating injuries: amputations, puncturing body cavities, blast (injuries) and now burns." Still, the American survival rate is the best for any war, at 94 percent.

U.S. casualties come in groups, Smith observed. "Americans tend to stick with their vehicles," said the doctor, who served 12 years as a field artilleryman. "Iraqis conduct more dismounted operations, so their wounds are more gunshot (wounds)."

Army Dr. (Capt.) David R. Steinbruner, a trauma specialist in the emergency room, said the teamwork among the doctors, nurses and medics in the ER is a sight to behold. Everyone involved in medical care, "from the buddy using combat life-saving techniques, to the medics and the battalion surgeons" have a part to play in the survival rate, he said.

Army Lt. Col. Patrick Ahearne is the chief of nursing at the hospital. He said the 10th's young nurses, many of them fresh out of college, really came through during their deployment.

"I am so proud of the way our 'baby nurses' have learned and behaved," he said. "The work they have done in the past year, for people new to the field, is incredible."

The hospital staff is constantly seeking ways to improve its survival record, Smith said, consulting with battalion surgeons and giving immediate feedback to units that have sent patients to the hospital.

The hospital uses lots of whole blood products when treating the patients. Smith said medics have found this is better than the saline solutions medical experts recommended in the past. The doctors, nurses and medics continually share procedures and techniques, not only among themselves, but also with personnel back in the United States, he added.

Smith said he's hopeful for a long-term push to capture data from medical experiences in Iraq. He said this process during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam saved countless lives, both military and civilian. "We should be able to do the same now," he said.

Related Article:

HBO Film 'Baghdad ER' Examines Combat Hospital []

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