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Minerva Chirurgica 2013 June;68(3):275-80


language: English

Trauma in conflict and postconflict settings: contributions to health systems strengthening

Lunze F. I. 1, 2, Offergeld C. 3, Eichhorn T. 4, Tsorieva Z. 2, Esenov C. 2, Lunze K. 5

1 Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA; 2 Vladikavkaz Children’s Hospital, Vladikavkaz, Russian Federation; 3 Department of ENT, Freiburg University, Freiburg, Germany; 4 Carl Thiem Hospital Cottbus, Cottbus, Germany; 5 Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA


Violent trauma does not only affect conflict and postconflict regions, but increasingly industrialized nations afflicted by violence from terror attacks. We conducted a comparative health systems analysis, assuming that health systems with various backgrounds might learn from each other’s health systems challenges caused by violent trauma. During the tragedy of Beslan in the Russian North Caucasus in September of 2004, more than 1000 children with their families were taken hostage in a school. Over three days, 334 people were killed and many more injured. While immediate trauma care was offered to all victims, many suffered from more complex injuries or from blast injuries to the ear caused by indoor bomb explosions, which were left untreated due to the lack of regional capacity for the required specialized microsurgery. Most if not all victims suffered from mental trauma as a consequence of violence, which also impacted surgical care-seeking. In April of 2013, two improvised explosive devices detonated at the Boston Marathon, killed three victims and injured 264, more than 20 of them critically. As a consequence of previous terror acts with mass causalities, local hospitals were prepared with drilling and coordination among health facilities, responders and government agencies. Some injury patterns similar to those in the North Caucasus emerged in the aftermath of the event and need to be addressed by the health system. Trauma from violent conflict and terrorism creates similar challenges to health systems. Preparedness for mass causalities requires revision and coordination of available services, and may prompt the strengthening of existing health systems. Health professionals should encourage victims’ representatives and citizen groups to assist with assessing the prevalence and burden of injuries, including mental trauma, and to facilitate connecting affected patients to health care. Awareness for late trauma sequelae, including mental health trauma, is essential to appropriately address victims’ needs.

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