Military Surgeons Meet in Salt Lake

Military Surgeons Meet in Salt Lake

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Ed Yeates reporting How to face the challenges of a new generation of soldiers fighting in Iraq: That's one of many issues the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States is talking about as the national group holds its annual meeting here in Salt Lake.

A 90 percent survival rate! Soldiers now survive their injuries more than any of their colleagues from any previous war.

Under Secretary for Health for the Department of Veterans Affairs Dr. Michael Kussman says body armor and front-line medical technology and care have changed the outcome. "The military, over the last decade, has developed far forward surgical teams made up of anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, vascular surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons who can do surgery literally on the streets," Kussman explained.

What was once that "magic hour" to transport a soldier to a site for more definitive care now takes 20 minutes or less. But with survival comes challenges.

Though the actual number of amputees is lower than expected, about 700 new-generation soldiers will get the latest and most sophisticated prosthetic limbs available. In the future, those limbs might even allow some to return to combat.

Military Surgeons Meet in Salt Lake

The Veterans Health Administration also is expanding outreach programs, hoping to make contact with reservists and National Guard soldiers who've played a major role in this war but have not made contact with the VA.

For example, soldiers may feel it's not "macho" to talk about emotional issues from combat when, in fact, it would be abnormal not to experience those feelings from this war. "People in our society aren't so willing to talk about what might be bothering them emotionally, but they will come in for their back pain and knee pain," Kussman explained.

The VA currently spends more than $3.3 billion to help veterans deal with emotional and mental health issues, and they're now screened for those no matter what they come in for.

The Association of Military Surgeons of the United States is more than 3,000 members strong and is a partner with the Society of Federal Health Agencies.

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