Comparative Study
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Penetrating neck trauma in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

OBJECTIVES: To examine the surgical outcomes of penetrating neck trauma patients in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and compare treatment and perioperative survival to historical data with low-velocity penetrating neck trauma seen in a noncombat clinical setting.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series with chart review.

SETTING: Air Force Theater Hospital at Balad Air Base, Iraq.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: The surgical management of penetrating neck trauma by 6 otolaryngologists deployed over a 30-month period at the United States Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad, Iraq, was retrospectively reviewed. The presenting signs and symptoms, operative findings, and outcomes of patients who underwent neck exploration for high-velocity penetrating neck trauma were determined. A treatment algorithm defining the management of both high-velocity and low-velocity penetrating neck trauma is recommended.

RESULTS: One hundred and twelve neck explorations for penetrating neck trauma were performed in OIF over 30 months. Ninety-eight percent of these neck injuries were due to high-velocity projectiles. In patients, zone 1 injuries occurred in 10%, zone 2 injuries in 77%, zone 3 injuries in 5%, combined zone 1/2 injuries in 5%, and combined zone 2/3 injuries in 3%. The positive exploration rate (patients with intraoperative findings necessitating surgical repair) was 69% (77/112). The mortality of patients undergoing neck exploration for high-velocity penetrating neck trauma was 3.7%.

CONCLUSIONS: The perioperative mortality and the positive exploration rate for high-velocity penetrating neck trauma by deployed surgeons in OIF are very comparable to those rates seen in civilian centers managing low-velocity penetrating neck trauma.

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