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Critical care in the austere environment: Providing exceptional care in unusual places

Venticinque, Steven G. MD; Grathwohl, Kurt W. MD

doi: 10.1097/CCM.0b013e31817da8ec
Scientific Reviews

Background: War and other disasters are inexorably linked to illness and injury. As a consequence of this, healthcare providers will be challenged to provide advanced physiological support to preserve human life. Given the mobility and modularity of modern medical systems, the ability to provide critical care outside of the confines of traditional hospitals under such circumstances has become not only a reality and periodic necessity, but an expectation. Austerity amplifies the complexity of providing high-level critical care, because resources are frequently limited, providers are asked to fill unexpected roles determined by necessity, security may be threatened, and the population at risk and their afflictions can be highly diverse.

Discussion: Our current deployed military medical experience and a review of published literature pertaining to civilian medical disaster response efforts support these stated challenges. The fundamentals of successful critical care practice in unusual settings include proper planning with an emphasis on attention to detail, the careful management of all resources, using the proper equipment, leveraging aeromedical evacuation assets, and employing the right people with the right skills.

Summary: Adherence to sound, evidence-based, routine practice, within bounds of the circumstances, must underscore everything.

From the Department of Anesthesiology (SGV), University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX; and the Department of Anesthesiology (KG), Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX.

The views and opinions expressed in this manuscript are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Army Medical Department, Department of the Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

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© 2008 by the Society of Critical Care Medicine and Lippincott Williams & Wilkins