On the Battlefield, More Serious Wounds

American soldiers are suffering more serious combat injuries in Afghanistan than was the case in previous years, with surgeons reporting a sharp rise in amputations and genital wounds.

U.S. surgeons, medics and nurses there are speaking of a new “signature wound” – both legs blown off at the knee or higher, accompanied by genital damage and pelvic injuries.

“I’ve seen these types of injuries before,” said John B. Holcomb, a trauma surgeon and retired Army colonel from Texas. “What I haven’t seen is them coming in over and over and over again.”

The increase in such wounds is blamed on the troop surge that began last spring in Afghanistan, compounded by a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes foot patrols in villages and on farm compounds.

Twice as many soldiers wounded in battle last year required limb amputations than in either of the two previous years, it was reported. And nearly three times as many suffered severe genital wounds. Limbs are severed, in most cases, when a soldier steps on a buried mine.

The sharp increase in both rate and number of such wounds is the subject of a report prepared by Holcomb and two other Army surgeons and circulated at the highest levels of civilian and military command in the past two months.

Read more in the Washington Post.

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