Since 2001, more than 2.2 million Americans have died from trauma—a disabling or life threatening physical injury to the body—and it is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 46. Nevertheless, advances in trauma care have accelerated over the past decade, spurred by the unprecedented burden of injury resulting from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine examines how the U.S. can sustain advances made in military trauma care and apply those advances to the civilian sector.
Between 2005 and 2013, the case fatality rate for United States service members injured in Afghanistan decreased by nearly 50%, despite an increase in the severity of injury among U.S. troops during the same period of time. But as the war in Afghanistan ends, knowledge and advances in trauma care developed by the Department of Defense (DoD) over the past decade from experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq may be lost. This would have implications for the quality of trauma care both within the DoD and in the civilian setting, where adoption of military advances in trauma care has become increasingly common and necessary to improve the response to multiple civilian casualty events.
Intentional steps to codify and harvest the lessons learned within the military’s trauma system are needed to ensure a ready military medical force for future combat and to prevent death from survivable injuries in both military and civilian systems. This will require partnership across military and civilian sectors and a sustained commitment from trauma system leaders at all levels to assure that the necessary knowledge and tools are not lost.