Trauma surgeon urges continued investment in combat care

  • Published
  • By Donna Miles
  • American Forces Press Service

As combat operations wind down in Afghanistan and the Defense Department struggles with ever-tighter budgetary constraints, a seasoned military trauma surgeon warned against arbitrary cuts that could unravel successes made in preventing combat injuries and, when they occur, providing the best medical care from the point of injury through rehabilitation.


"One of the most important capabilities we have developed is a floor-to-ceiling trauma system that spans the continuum from the point of injury to discharge from acute care and even into rehab," Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jeffrey Bailey, director of the Joint Trauma System, told American Forces Press Service.


"Over the last decade, we have really worked to knit that together and to look for opportunities to improve outcomes in our combat casualties," he said.


The result is a system unlike any other in the world, he said, with huge success in saving lives on the battlefield. Ninety-eight percent of all combat casualties who reach a theater advanced treatment facility survive.


"This did not happen by accident," Bailey said. "It happened because the services, the Defense Department, America and our coalition partners invested in this."


Recognizing the current fiscal environment, Bailey emphasized the importance of continuing to build on these capabilities even after the current conflicts end. "It is absolutely critical to be able to perpetuate all of the lessons and continue to improve and adapt them as more information becomes available in combat casualty care and trauma care," he said.


"And at the end of the day, all these things will go away if they are not resourced," Bailey said. "This capability, and what it brings to the combat injured in terms of their ability to survive and get back to what they want to do will be quickly lost if we move beyond the conflict and lose that perspective."