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The pattern of paediatric blast injury in Afghanistan

Abstract

Introduction Between 2009 and 2015, 3746 children died, and 7904 were injured as a result of armed conflict within Afghanistan. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war accounted for 29% of child casualties in 2015. The aim of this study was to review the burden of paediatric blast injuries admitted to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, and to investigate the hypothesis that children suffer proportionally more head injuries than adults.

Method A retrospective analysis was undertaken of prospectively collected data derived from the UK Joint Theatre Trauma Registry of ambulant paediatric (aged 2–15 years) admissions with blast injuries at the Role 3 Field Hospital, Camp Bastion from June 2006 to March 2013. The data set included demographic information, injury profile and severity (New Injury Severity Score) and operative findings. The pattern of injuries were investigated by looking at trends in the number and severity of injuries sustained by each body region.

Results During this period, 295 admissions were identified, 76% of whom were male, with an overall mortality rate of 18.5%. The most common blast mechanism was an IED (68%) causing 80% of fatalities. The lower extremities were the most commonly injured body region, accounting for 31% of total injuries and occurring in 62% of cases. 24.3% of children between 2 and 7 years suffered severe head or neck injuries compared with 19.8% of children aged between 8 and 15 years. 34% of head injuries were rated unsurvivable and accounted for 88% of fatalities. 77% of cases required an operation with a mean operating time of 125 min. The most common first operations were debridement of soft tissues (50%), laparotomy (16%) and lower limb amputation (11%).

Conclusion Although paediatric blast casualties represented a small percentage of the overall workload at Camp Bastion Role 3 Medical Facility, the pattern of injuries seen suggests that children are more likely to sustain severe head, face and neck injuries than adults.

  • blast
  • paediatrics
  • Afghanistan
  • IED
  • trauma
  • orthopedics

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