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Spine J. 2012 Sep;12(9):849-57. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2011.11.014. Epub 2011 Dec 22.

Wartime spine injuries: understanding the improvised explosive device and biophysics of blast trauma.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD 20889, USA.


The improvised explosive device (IED) has been the most significant threat by terrorists worldwide. Blast trauma has produced a wide pattern of combat spinal column injuries not commonly experienced in the civilian community. Unfortunately, explosion-related injuries have also become a widespread reality of civilian life throughout the world, and civilian medical providers who are involved in emergency trauma care must be prepared to manage casualties from terrorist attacks using high-energy explosive devices. Treatment decisions for complex spine injuries after blast trauma require special planning, taking into consideration many different factors and the complicated multiple organ system injuries not normally experienced at most civilian trauma centers. Therefore, an understanding about the effects of blast trauma by spine surgeons in the community has become imperative, as the battlefield has been brought closer to home in many countries through domestic terrorism and mass casualty situations, with the lines blurred between military and civilian trauma. We set out to provide the spine surgeon with a brief overview on the use of IEDs for terrorism and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and also a perspective on the biophysics of blast trauma.

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