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Wednesday, February 15, 2006 

Amputation rate for US troops twice that of past wars

Over 16,000 injured

Via Boston.Com
"The death rate isn't great compared to Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. But these soldiers are coming back to their communities and people are seeing just how high the price is that these young people are paying," said Dr. G. Richard Holt, a head and neck surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and a retired US Army surgeon who served as a civilian adviser in Iraq earlier this year...

In addition to amputations, many soldiers making this journey have head and neck injuries, frequently injured by improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, essentially remote-controlled bombs planted in the ground.

"The angle of the force of these IEDs is right for the neck and face. That's been devastating to folks over there," said Holt, explaining that Kevlar helmets do not protect the underside of heads and necks, where crucial nerves and blood vessels lie.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael S. Xydakis, a military surgeon, released a little-noticed study in September at a medical conference of head and neck surgeons. He found that over a 14-month period, about 1 in 5 US soldiers treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which handles most Iraq casualties, had head or neck injuries.

These injuries, surgeons said, have long-term implications, with many involving irreversible brain damage, breathing and eating impairments, blindness, or severe disfiguration. The study prompted the military to add a full-time head and neck surgeon to a Baghdad field hospital.

"These folks are just starting to come back, and they may require care for a long, long time," said Holt


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