Introduction The evolution of medical practice is resulting in increasing subspecialisation, with head, face and neck (HFN) trauma in a civilian environment usually managed by a combination of surgical specialties working as a team. However, the full combination of HFN specialties commonly available in the NHS may not be available in future UK military-led operations, necessitating the identification of a group of skill sets that could be delivered by one or more deployed surgeons.
Method A systematic review was undertaken to identify those surgical procedures performed to treat acute military head, face, neck and eye trauma. A multidisciplinary consensus group was convened following this with military HFN trauma expertise to define those procedures commonly required to conduct deployed, in-theatre HFN surgical combat trauma management.
Results Head, face, neck and eye damage control surgical procedures were identified as comprising surgical cricothyroidotomy, cervico-facial haemorrhage control and decompression of orbital haemorrhage through lateral canthotomy. Acute in-theatre surgical skills required within 24 hours consist of wound debridement, surgical tracheostomy, decompressive craniectomy, intracranial pressure monitor placement, temporary facial fracture stabilisation for airway management or haemorrhage control and primary globe repair. Delayed in-theatre procedures required within 5 days prior to predicted evacuation encompass facial fracture fixation, delayed lateral canthotomy, evisceration, enucleation and eyelid repair.
Conclusions The identification of those skill sets required for deployment is in keeping with the General Medical Council’s current drive towards credentialing consultants, by which a consultant surgeon’s capabilities in particular practice areas would be defined. Limited opportunities currently exist for trainees and consultants to gain experience in the management of traumatic head, face, neck and eye injuries seen in a kinetic combat environment. Predeployment training requires that the surgical techniques described in this paper are covered and should form the curriculum of future military-specific surgical fellowships. Relevant continued professional development will be necessary to maintain required clinical competency.
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