Trauma-related infections in battlefield casualties from Iraq

Kyle Petersen*, Mark S. Riddle, Janine R. Danko, David L. Blazes, Richard Hayden, Sybil A. Tasker, James R. Dunne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To describe risks for, and microbiology and antimicrobial resistance patterns of, war trauma associated infections from Operation Iraqi Freedom. BACKGROUND: The invasion of Iraq resulted in casualties from high-velocity gunshot, shrapnel, and blunt trauma injuries as well as burns. Infectious complications of these unique war trauma injuries have not been described since the 1970s. METHODS: Retrospective record review of all trauma casualties 5 to 65 years of age evacuated from the Iraqi theatre to U.S. Navy hospital ship, USNS Comfort March to May 2003.War trauma-associated infection was defined by positive culture from a wound or sterile body fluid (ie, blood, cerebrospinal fluid) and at least two of the following infection-associated signs/symptoms: fever, dehiscence, foul smell, peri-wound erythema, hypotension, and leukocytosis. A comparison of mechanisms of injury, demographics, and clinical variables was done using multivariate analysis. RESULTS: Of 211 patients, 56 met criteria for infection. Infections were more common in blast injuries, soft tissue injuries, >3 wound sites, loss of limb, abdominal trauma, and higher Injury Severity Score (ISS). Wound infections accounted for 84% of cases, followed by bloodstream infections (38%). Infected were more likely to have had fever prior to arrival, and had higher probability of ICU admission and more surgical procedures. Acinetobacter species (36%) were the predominant organisms followed by Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas species (14% each). CONCLUSIONS: Similar to the Vietnam War experience, gram-negative rods, particularly Acinetobacter species, accounted for the majority of wound infections cared for on USNS Comfort during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Multidrug resistance was common, with the exception of the carbapenem class, limiting antibiotic therapy options.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-811
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


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