Injury following ballistic trauma is the most prevalent indication for providing organ system support within an ICU in the field. Following damage control surgery, postoperative ventilatory support may be required, but multiple factors may influence the indications for and duration of invasive mechanical ventilation. Ballistic trauma and surgery may trigger the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (SIRS) and are important causative factors in the development of Acute Lung Injury (ALI) and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). However, their pathophysiological effect on the respiratory system is unpredictable and variable. Invasive mechanical ventilation is associated with numerous complications and the return to spontaneous ventilation has many physiological benefits. Following trauma, shorter periods of ICU sedation-amnesia and a protocol for early weaning and extubation, may minimize complications and have a beneficial effect on their psychological recovery. In the presence of stable respiratory function, appropriate analgesia and favourable operational and transfer criteria, we believe that the prompt restoration of spontaneous ventilation and early tracheal extubation should be a clinical objective for casualties within the field ICU.
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