Plastic Surgery at War: A Scoping Review of Current Conflicts

Justin P. Fox, Nickolay P. Markov, Alexandra M. Markov, Eamon O'Reilly, Kerry P. Latham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: The scope of military plastic surgery and location where care is provided has evolved with each major conflict. To help inform plastic surgeon utilization in future conflicts, we conducted a review of military plastic surgery-related studies to characterize plastic surgeon contributions during recent military operations. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Using a scoping review design, we searched electronic databases to identify articles published since September 1, 2001 related to military plastic surgery according to a defined search criterion. Next, we screened all abstracts for appropriateness based on pre-established inclusion/exclusion criteria. Finally, we reviewed the remaining full-text articles to describe the nature of care provided and the operational level at which care was delivered. RESULTS: The final sample included 55 studies with most originating in the United States (54.5%) between 2005 and 2019 and were either retrospective cohort studies (81.8%) or case series (10.9%). The breadth of care included management of significant upper/lower extremity injuries (40%), general reconstructive and wound care (36.4%), and craniofacial surgery (16.4%). Microsurgical reconstruction was a primary focus in 40.0% of published articles. When specified, most care was described at Role 3 (25.5%) or Roles 4/5 facilities (62.8%) with temporizing measures more common at Role 3 and definite reconstruction at Roles 4/5. Several lessons learned were identified that held commonality across plastic surgery domain. CONCLUSIONS: Plastic surgeons continue to play a critical role in the management of wounded service members, particularly for complex extremity reconstruction, craniofacial trauma, and general expertise on wound management. Future efforts should evaluate mechanisms to maintain these skill sets among military plastic surgeons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e327-e335
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 30 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


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