Forward Surgical Team (FST) workload in a special operations environment: The 250th FST in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM

Ronald J. Place, Robert M. Rush, Edward D. Arrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Purpose: Forward Surgical Teams (FST) deploy to support conventional combat units of at least regimental size. This report examines the injuries and treatments of an FST in an environment of unconventional tactics, limited personal protection, and extended areas of responsibility during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Methods: A prospective evaluation of the personal protective measures, mechanisms of injury, types of injuries, and times to treatment in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. Additionally, per-surgeon caseloads, operative interventions, and outcomes are examined. The first phase of this deployment involved co-locating with an Air Force Expeditionary Medical Squadron at Seeb Air Base, Oman (SABO). The second phase involved stand-alone operations at Kandahar International Airport (KIA). Participants include U.S. Special Forces, conventional U.S forces, coalition country special forces, and anti-Taliban Afghan soldiers. Results: During the deployment, the FST performed 68 surgical procedures on 50 patients (19 SAB, 31 KIA). There were 35 orthopedic cases (2 to 28 per surgeon), 30 general surgery cases (2 to 10 per surgeon), and 3 head/neck cases. Mechanism of injury included non-battle injury (13), bomb blast (13), gunshot wounds (8), mine (8), and grenades (5). Primary injuries were to the extremities in 27, torso in 9, and head/neck in 11. Three patients had appendicitis. Five patients were wearing body armor, whereas 4 wore helmets. The mean Relative Trauma Score was 7.4. Thirty-one patients were treated at KIA with a mean time to operative treatment of 2.7 ± 2.7 hours, whereas 19 were treated in SABO with a mean time to operative treatment of 12.4 ± 15.1 hours. Nine patients received transfusions. Three nonoperative patients died of wounds. Conclusion: Despite the lack of personal protective gear, most patients had extremity wounds as their primary injuries. In this special operations environment, time to operative treatment was significantly longer than expected. Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of the Association of Program Direcctors in Surgery).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)418-422
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Evacuation times
  • Forward Surgical Team
  • Mechanism of injury
  • Special Forces

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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