Point-of-care ultrasound for treatment and triage in austere military environments.

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Assessment and triage in an austere environment represent a major challenge in casualty care. Modern conflicts involve a significant proportion of multiple wounds, either superficial or penetrating, which complicate clinical evaluation. Furthermore, there is often poor accessibility to computed tomography (CT) scans and a limited number of surgical teams. Therefore, ultrasound (US) represents a potentially valuable tool for distinguishing superficial fragments or shrapnels from penetrating trauma requiring immediate damage control surgery.This retrospective observational multicenter study assessed casualties treated over 8 months by five medical teams deployed in Africa and Middle East. Two experts, who were experienced in military emergency medicine but did not take part in the missions, carried out an independent analysis for each case, evaluating the contribution of US to the following five items: triage categorization, diagnosis, clinical severity, prehospital therapeutic choices, and priority to operation room. Consensus was obtained using the Delphi method with three rounds.Out of 325 casualties, 189 underwent US examination. The mean injury severity scale score was 25.6, and 76% were wounded by an improvised explosive device. US was useful for confirming (23%) or excluding (63%) the suspected diagnosis made in the clinical assessment. It also helped obtain a diagnosis that had not been considered for 3% of casualties and was responsible for a major change in procedure or therapy in 4%. US altered the surgical priority in 43% of cases. For 30% of cases, US permitted surgery to be temporarily delayed to prioritize another more urgent casualty.Ultrasound is a valuable tool for the management of mass casualties by improving treatment and triage, especially when surgical resources are limited. In some situations, US can also correct a diagnosis or improve prehospital therapeutic choices. Field medical teams should be trained to integrate US into their prehospital protocols.Case serie.Level V (no Gold standard).

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Authors: Christophe Dubecq, Olivier Dubourg, Gabriel Morand, Romain Montagnon, Stéphane Travers, Pierre Mahe