On Distant Battlefields, Survival Odds Rise Sharply
Every war brings medical innovations, as horrific injuries force surgeons to come up with new ways to save lives. During the Civil War, doctors learned better ways to amputate limbs, and in World War I they developed the typhoid vaccine. World War II brought the mass use of penicillin, Korea and Vietnam the development of medical evacuation by helicopter.
The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, medical experts say, are still emerging. One legacy is new ways to control bleeding before soldiers lapse into comas or their vital organs shut down. Thanks to new clotting agents, blood products and advanced medical procedures performed closer to the battlefield, wounded American soldiers are now surviving at a greater rate than in any previous war fought by the U.S.
The rising survival rate, now touching 95% for those who live long enough to get medical treatment, is in turn introducing new problems caring for patients with serious and chronic injuries, including multiple amputations and brain damage. The cost of treating such lasting injuries will be borne by the U.S. medical system for decades to come.