The hidden war: Humanitarian surgery in a combat zone

Christopher R. Porta, Richard Robins, Brian Eastridge, John Holcomb, Martin Schreiber, Matthew Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Humanitarian surgical care (HSC) provided during wartime plays a substantial role in military operations, but has not been described or quantified beyond individual experiences. Methods: Prospective survey was conducted of all military members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2002 and 2011. Results: There were 266 responses. On average, surgeons had been in practice for 3 years at their 1st deployment and the majority were not fellowship trained. HSC was performed on all body systems and patient populations, including surgery for malignancy. Although 30% of responders performed surgeries they had never done before as a staff surgeon, 84% felt well prepared by their residency. The majority felt that performing HSC improved unit readiness (60%), benefited local population (64%), and contributed to counterinsurgency operations (54%). Conclusion: Over our 10-year period, hundreds of military surgeons performed countless HSC cases in Iraq and Afghanistan and the majority felt that HSC had numerous benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)766-772
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican journal of surgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Afghanistan
  • Humanitarian aid
  • Humanitarian surgery
  • Iraq
  • Military combat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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