What Happens When a Soldier is Injured in Combat?

Military Hospital

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What Happens When a Soldier is Injured in Combat?

In Vietnam, 7/10 soldiers injured in the field made it back to hospitals. Today, that’s up to 9/10. It takes quite a show to get our troops home, though, from medical aid given under fire, to state of the art medical transport, and beyond. Let’s take a look at American military hospitals.

So You’re Injured in the Field

Chances are:

Your extremities are injured: 52%
Your Head and neck: 28%
Your Thorax: 10%
Your Abdomen: 10%

You’re in the army: 78.1%
You’re a junior enlisted soldier: 59.2%
You’re male: 98.5%

3/4 combat wounds were caused by explosive mechanisms
1/5 by gunshots
1/20 in other ways
(Based on 2005-2009 U.S. combat data)

Stage Two: Evacuation


“Members of the armed forces specially trained for employment, should the need arise, as hospital orderlies, nurses or auxiliary stretcher-bearers, in the search for or the collection, transport or treatment of the wounded and sick shall likewise be respected and protected if they are carrying out these duties at the time when they come into contact with the enemy or fall into his hands.”
Chapter IV, Article 25 Geneva Convention

9/10 combat deaths occur before the casualty ever reaches medical treatment facilities.[8]
Today 1/5 soldiers are trained to be “combat life savers” and [10]
Administer TCCC (Tactical Combat Casualty Care), which seeks to lower this rate by 60-90%.

By targeting the 3 largest killers:

Causes of preventable combat deaths:

60%: Extremity hemorrhage
6%: Airway Obstruction
33%: Tension Pneumothorax

3 Levels of Care:

1.) Care Under Fire — Limited to gear of medic and soldier. Focus is on assessment and stopping major bleeding.
2.) Tactical Field Care — Outside of fire decide to triage or evacuate. Treatment can include advanced airway therapy and IV’s.
3.) Tactical Evacuation Care — During evacuation by vehicle, further medical devices, measurements, and access to medical staff are possible.[9]

Unlike in the past, medics often carry personal firearms due to fighting against insurgents or parties that otherwise don’t care about the Geneva Convention. Casualties are also advised to continue fighting as needed and able through field treatment.

Life-Saving Gadgets:

-Lifebot: A 2.8 lb portable defibrillator.
-XStat Rapid Hemostasis System: Injects sponges into gunshot wounds to seal them for 4 hours.
-iTClamp: Looks like a hairclip, but clamps onto skin with metal claws to pull shut large wounds.

The Power of Flight

Air — Since the invention of flying machines they’ve been used to rescue the wounded.

— First documented use:
1870 Siege of Paris–Balloons evacuated 160 soldiers from the besieged city.
— First British use:
Occurred in 1917 in Turkey to transport a soldier who was shot in the ankle.
Flight duration: 45 minutes
Land Journey Length: 3 days

Germany is 100% covered by air Medevacs
with a 10 minute average response time
Speed of response leads to 5-7 day shorter intensive care stays
9% fewer wound infections
15% less head injury mortality

Flying a Medevac helicopter is one of the most dangerous roles a soldier can perform.

Most common: UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters[5]
Cost: $21.3 million per unit
Number Made: 4,000
Can carry: 11 troops with equipment
Can lift: 2,600 lbs internally
9,000 lbs externally by sling


— Each wounded American soldier costs $2 million
— With 5.6/10 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans expected to apply for veteran’s assistance.
And 1/2 already applying for long-term disability programs
Claiming an average of 8 disabling conditions

Largest overseas military hospital: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Landstuhl, Germany
With 1,000 beds in the event of an emergency
Serving 8,000 troops for combat injuries since 2003
With 38,000 total patients since 2003

Other overseas locations:
2 other in Germany
1 in Italy
1 in Japan

And Regional Medical Commands in:

Fort Lewis, WA
Honolulu, HI
Fort Bliss, TX
Fort Sam Houston, TX
Fort Hood, TX
Fort Gordon, GA
Fort Bragg, NC
And Bethesda, MD

It doesn’t stop there: 56% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are expected to apply for veteran’s assistance at some point in their life.

With 1/2 already applying for long-term disability payments.

And the average patient claiming 8 disabling conditions.

Military Hospital


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