Press Releases

2004 Releases

Military Casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan Show 10 Percent Mortality Rate, Lowest Ever in Wartime

For immediate release:  December 08, 2004  

Boston, MA-- In an essay with major implications for military policy, "Casualties of War -- Military Care for the Wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan," Dr. Atul Gawande describes the triage system that is saving a higher percentage of military casualties than in any previous US war. The article appears in the December 9, 2004 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine and is accompanied by photographs of survivors' severe injuries.  The article and photos are available online without a subscription at:

Dr. Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The article makes these main points:

-- Medical personnel have been able to reduce the lethality of war injuries to the lowest percentage ever. In WW II 30 percent of Americans injured in combat died; in Vietnam, 24 percent. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it is just 10 percent.

-- The article describes the triage system that has led to this astonishing improvement

 -- There is a shortage of medical personnel to carry out the triage (only 120 general surgeons on active duty, many on second deployment)

-- The masking of the true human cost, intensity and scope of the war by the success in treating injuries (as of Nov. 16, 2004, 10,726 service members have suffered war injuries)

 -- The preponderance of blast injuries producing an unprecedented burden of patients with mangled extremities

 -- The epidemic of a multi-drug resistant bacterial infection in military hospitals

 -- Selective Service has updated a plan to allow rapid registration of 3.4 million health care workers 18 to 44 years of age.

For further information contact:
Robin Herman, Harvard School of Public Health 617-432-4752
or Amy Smith, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 617-732-1603.