Clinical utilization of deployed military surgeons

Andrew B. Hall*, Iram Qureshi, Jennifer M. Gurney, Stacy Shackelford, Jonathan Taylor, Christopher Mahoney, Scott Trask, Avery Walker, Ramey L. Wilson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Combat casualty care has been shaped by the prolonged conflicts in Southwest Asia, namely Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. The utilization of surgeons in austere locations outside of Southwest Asia and its implication on skill retention and value have not been examined. This study hypothesizes that surgeon utilization is low in the African theater. This lack of activity is potentially damaging to surgical skill retention and patient care. METHODS: Military case logs of surgeons deployed to Africa under command of Special Operations Command Africa between January 1, 2016, and January 1, 2020, were examined. Cases were organized based on population served, general type of procedure, current procedural terminology codes, and location. RESULTS: Twenty deployment caseloads representing 74% of the deployments during the period were analyzed. In 3,294 days, 101 operations were performed, which included 45 on combat/terrorism related injuries and 19 on US personnel. East and West African deployments, combat, and noncombat zones, respectively, were compared. East Africa averaged 4.1 ± 3.8 operations per deployment, and West Africa, 7.3 ± 8.0 (p = 0.2434). In East Africa, 56.1% of total operations were related to combat/terrorism, compared with 29.6% of total operations in West Africa (p = 0.0077). West Africa had a significantly higher proportion of elective (p = 0.0002) and humanitarian cases (p = <0.0001). CONCLUSION: Surgical cases for military surgeons were uncommon in Africa. The low volumes have implications for skill retention, morale, and sustainability of military surgical end strength. Reduction in deployment lengths, deployment location adjustments, and/or skill retention strategies are required to ensure clinical peak performance and operational readiness. Failure to implement changes to current practices to optimize surgeon experience will likely decrease surgical readiness and could contribute to decreased retention of deployable military surgeons to support global operations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S256-S260
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Trauma
  • combat casualty care
  • readiness
  • training


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