Chest Seal Placement for Penetrating Chest Wounds by Prehospital Ground Forces in Afghanistan

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    Schauer SG, April MD, Naylor JF, Simon EM, Fisher AD, Cunningham CW, Morissette DM, Fernandez JD, Ryan KL 17(3). 85 - 89 (Journal Article)

    Background: Thoracic trauma represents 5% of all battlefield injuries. Communicating pneumothoraces resulting in tension physiology remain an important etiology of prehospital mortality. In addressing penetrating chest trauma, current Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) guidelines advocate the immediate placement of a vented chest seal device. Although the Committee on TCCC (CoTCCC) has approved numerous chest seal devices for battlefield use, few data exist regarding their use in a combat zone setting. Objective: To evaluate adherence to TCCC guidelines for chest seal placement among personnel deployed to Afghanistan. Methods: We obtained data from the Prehospital Trauma Registry (PHTR). Joint Trauma System personnel linked patients to the Department of Defense Trauma Registry, when available, for outcome data upon reaching a fixed facility. Results: In the PHTR, we identified 62 patients with documented gunshot wound (GSW) or puncture wound trauma to the chest. The majority (74.2%; n = 46) of these were due to GSW, with the remainder either explosive-based puncture wounds (22.6%; n = 14) or a combination of GSW and explosive (3.2%; n = 2). Of the 62 casualties with documented GSW or puncture wounds, 46 (74.2%) underwent chest seal placement. Higher proportions of patients with medical officers in their chain of care underwent chest seal placement than those that did not (63.0% versus 37.0%). The majority of chest seals placed were not vented. Conclusion: Of patients with a GSW or puncture wound to the chest, 74.2% underwent chest seal placement. Most of the chest seals placed were not vented in accordance with guidelines, despite the guideline update midway through the study period. These data suggest the need to improve predeployment training on TCCC guidelines and matching of the Army logistical supply chain to the devices recommended by the CoTCCC.

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