Objectives To examine the profile of medical morbidity and the role of the physician in modern conflict.
Methods Retrospective survey of admission records at a British Military Field Hospital on operational duty in Southern Iraq.
Results 62.5% of 4870 admissions to the Field Hospital in Shaibah during the first 12 months of military operations in Iraq were under the care of physicians. Of these 1531 (31.4%) were due to diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V) and 764 (15.7%) due to heat illness. The incidence of heat illness rose with ambient temperature, but soldiers were more likely to be admitted with heat illness shortly after arrival in theatre than when fully acclimatised. There was also a steady flow of admissions with a broad spectrum of medical pathology requiring the clinical skills of a general physician.
Conclusions A general physician is a necessary part of the clinical team in modern conflict. The incidence of D&V and of heat illness on military operations remains high. Planners for any operation in tropical climates should take this into consideration and put preventative measures into place early.
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