BETHESDA, Md. – American troops are suffering more extensive physical damage — measured in lost arms and legs — to buried explosives in Afghanistan than ever before, according to data collected by the Army Surgeon General's office.
This year through May, 60% of all combat amputation casualties in Afghanistan — 31 of 52 cases — were troops who lost two, three or four limbs, according to statistics. The vast majority are caused by makeshift bombs known as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, the Army says.
In 2009, about one in four combat amputations involved multiple limb-loss. That increased to one in three in 2010 and nearly one in two last year, when there were a record 225 amputation cases in Afghanistan.
Half of the six American troops left quadruple amputees during 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffered their wounds this year, data show.
Two lethal trends in Taliban bombmaking are larger explosives targeting U.S. foot patrols and bombs that have less metal and are more difficult to find with detection devices, says the Army and the Joint IED Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, the Pentagon's lead agency for combating makeshift bombs.
The military has responded by placing more highly skilled medical personnel on helicopters that retrieve wounded servicemembers from the battlefield, including critical care nurses from the Army and doctors and nurse anesthetists from the Air Force.
"We believe that by placing this higher-level medical capability farther forward faster, that we will be able to save the lives of more of these servicemembers," says Brig. Gen. Bart Iddins, Air Force air mobility command surgeon.
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