Introduction: Until recently, female U.S. service members (SMs) have not been permitted to serve in direct combat roles. However, during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), a large number of female SMs have been wounded while serving in combat support roles. This included an unprecedented number of women with genitourinary (GU) injuries. No previous studies have reported either the incidence or clinical picture of these injuries. The objective of this study is to describe the epidemiology of GU injuries among female U.S. SMs during OIF/OEF and understand the potential for increased female GU injuries in future conflicts and the long-term sequelae from these injury patterns. Materials and Methods: The Department of Defense Trauma Registry was reviewed to identify all U.S. SMs diagnosed with GU injury from 2001 to 2013. The Department of Defense Trauma Registry includes data for wounded SMs treated at any U.S. combat support hospital, the in-theater equivalent of a civilian trauma center. Female SMs with ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes and/or Abbreviated Injury Scale codes for GU injury were included. Data on all females with GU injury were reviewed, including battle injury (BI) and non-BI. Basic demographic and injury characteristics were reported. Results: Among the 1,463 U.S. SMs diagnosed with GU injury while deployed to OIF/OEF, 20 (1.4%) were female (median age: 25 yr; interquartile range 21-27 yr). Of these, nine were BI (45%) and 11 were non-BI (55%). The distribution of injury location was as follows: Renal injuries (n = 12), vulvar injuries (n = 3), vaginal injuries (n = 3), perineal injury (n = 1), and bladder injury (n = 1). Median Injury Severity Score was in the severe range of 21 (interquartile range 6-32), and four women (20%) died of their wounds. Important associated injuries included colorectal (n = 5) and lower extremity amputation(s) (n = 2). The most common mechanism of injury among the nine women with GU BI was improvised explosive device blast (n = 6), followed by other explosions (n = 2) and gunshot wound (n = 1). Mechanisms of GU non-BI varied, including gunshot wound (n = 2), fall (n = 2), fire/flame (n = 1), knife wound (n = 1), unintentional machine injury (n = 1), motor vehicle accident (n = 1), sports injury (n = 1), fight (n = 1), and pedestrian injury (n = 1). Conclusion: Female GU injuries comprise a small portion of all GU injuries sustained during OIF/OEF with the most predominant being renal injury. Now that the ground combat exclusion policy has been lifted, these data can be used as a model for the expected injury patterns in future female combatants. Longterm applications for these data include research and development for personal protective equipment and development of a multidisciplinary approach to long-term comprehensive care following GU trauma.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health