Elective pediatric surgical care in a forward deployed setting: What is feasible vs. what is reasonable

Lucas P. Neff*, Jeremy W. Cannon, Kathryn M. Charnock, Diana L. Farmer, Matthew A. Borgman, Robert L. Ricca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective To describe the scope and outcomes of elective pediatric surgical procedures performed during combat operations. Background The care of patients in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) includes elective humanitarian surgery on Afghan children. Unlike military reports of pediatric trauma care, there is little outcome data on elective pediatric surgical care during combat operations to guide treatment decisions. Methods All elective surgical procedures performed on patients ≤ 16 years of age from May 2012 through April 2014 were reviewed. Procedures were grouped by surgical specialty and were further classified as single-stage (SINGLE) or multi-stage (MULTI). The primary endpoint was post-operative complications requiring further surgery, and the secondary endpoint was post-operative follow up. Results A total of 311 elective pediatric surgical procedures were performed on 239 patients. Surgical specialties included general surgery, orthopedics, otolaryngology, ophthalmology, neurosurgery and urology. 178 (57%) were SINGLE while 133 (43%) were MULTI. Fifteen patients required 32 procedures for post-operative complications. Approximately half of all procedures were performed as outpatient surgery. Median length of stay for inpatient was 2.2 days, and all patients survived to discharge. The majority of patients returned for outpatient follow-up (207, 87%), and 4 patients (1.7%) died after discharge. Conclusions Elective pediatric surgical care in a forward deployed setting is feasible; however, limitations in resources for perioperative care and rehabilitation mandate prudent patient selection particularly with respect to procedures that require prolonged post-operative care. Formal guidance on the process of patient selection for elective humanitarian surgery in these settings is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-415
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Afghanistan
  • Elective surgery
  • Global surgery
  • Humanitarian
  • Military


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