During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, extremity injuries have predominated; however, no systematic review of field and stabilization care with subsequent infectious complications exists. This study evaluates the infectious complications and possible risk factors of British military casualties with mangled extremities, highlighting initial care and infections.
This is a retrospective cohort study of British military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan between August 2003 and May 2008. Casualties with mangled extremities undergoing limb salvage were evaluated for management strategies at the time of injury through evacuation back to the United Kingdom and subsequent infections.
There were 84 casualties with 85 extremities (20 infected and 65 uninfected). Infected extremities had more Gustilo Classification IIIb. There were no differences by Injury Severity Score, age, durations from injury to evacuation, or surgery, or arrival in England, use of clotting materials, or method of extremity stabilization between infected and uninfected extremity injuries. Tourniquet use in the field and fasciotomy were associated with infections. Antimicrobial coverage was associated with infections. Staphylococcus aureus were recovered later in casualties' clinical course in contrast to early recovery of Acinetobacter. On multivariate analysis, tourniquet in the field, antibiotics during evacuation and in the operating room, and fasciotomy were associated with infection as were certain bacteria, notably, Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Infections occurred in 24% of those with mangled extremities including 6% with osteomyelitis. Certain procedures, likely reflective of injury severity, were associated with infections along with certain bacteria, P. aeruginosa and possibly S. aureus. Continued clarification is required for antimicrobial coverage (penicillin-based regimens vs. additional anaerobic coverage) and certain surgical procedures to improve casualty care.