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Non-Emergent Orthopaedic Injuries Sustained by Soldiers in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Gens P. Goodman, DO; Andrew J. Schoenfeld, MD; Brett D. Owens, MD; Jason R. Dutton, DO; Robert Burks, PhD; Philip J. Belmont, Jr., MD
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Investigation performed at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas

Disclaimer: All authors are employees of the U.S. federal government and the United States Army. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors and are not to be construed as official or reflecting the views of the Department of Defense or United States government.

Disclosure: None of the authors received payments or services, either directly or indirectly (i.e., via his or her institution), from a third party in support of any aspect of this work. One or more of the authors, or his or her institution, has had a financial relationship, in the thirty-six months prior to submission of this work, with an entity in the biomedical arena that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. No author has had any other relationships, or has engaged in any other activities, that could be perceived to influence or have the potential to influence what is written in this work. The complete Disclosures of Potential Conflicts of Interest submitted by authors are always provided with the online version of the article.

Copyright © 2012 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc.
J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 Apr 18;94(8):728-735. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.00129
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The majority of soldiers deployed to the theater of combat operations return safely after completion of the deployment. Many of these soldiers sustain non-emergent musculoskeletal injuries that initially are treated nonoperatively and ultimately require surgery following their combat tour.


A prospective evaluation of the orthopaedic surgery consultations and surgical procedures required by soldiers returning from a full combat deployment was performed. Demographic information (including age and sex) as well as information on the mechanism of injury, the reason for orthopaedic consultation, and the procedures performed was collected for each soldier. The overall incidence of non-emergent orthopaedic injuries was calculated, and multivariate Poisson regression analysis was utilized to determine the effect of age and sex on the type of orthopaedic injury sustained.


There were 3787 soldiers who returned from combat operations at the end of a fifteen-month deployment without having been medically evacuated. There were 731 orthopaedic surgical consultations for the evaluation of a non-emergent musculoskeletal complaint, and 140 orthopaedic operations were performed as a result. An age of thirty years or more was an important risk factor for requiring an orthopaedic consultation (p < 0.0001). The most common surgical procedures were performed for shoulder stabilization, for superior labrum anterior to posterior lesion repair, for the treatment of internal derangement of the knee, and for the treatment of foot deformity.


Nineteen percent of all soldiers who completed a combat deployment required an orthopaedic surgical consultation on return, and 4% of soldiers required orthopaedic surgery. More than half of the surgical procedures involved the knee or shoulder. This represents a large burden of care for returning soldiers on orthopaedic surgical services and has important implications for future resource utilization.

Level of Evidence: 

Prognostic Level I. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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    These activities have been planned and implemented in accordance with the Essential Areas and policies of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) through the joint sponsorship of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Inc. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons is accredited by the ACCME to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
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