OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

As we develop advanced tools of warfare, new types of injuries result too. Sometimes I wonder how advanced a society we are when I think about the ways we find to hurt each other. I’ve just been reading an article in Discover Magazine about facial reconstruction for soldiers who have horrendous injury to their heads from improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

With the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, damage to the head is one of the more common injuries. Technology has improved the survival rate so that less than 10% of the men and women injured in battle die. However, although they are surviving, many of them are dreadfully maimed and will spend the rest of their lives undergoing surgeries to repair the damage.

The Army is funding the development of new technologies to help soldiers with facial and head wounds heal faster and better. Advances have been made in treating burns and crushed facial bones so that scarring is much less evident. Special masks have been developed to heal burns and damaged tissue on the face. With the use of these masks, the head is encased in polyurethane where antibiotics, pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications can be administered all at the same time while maintaining a sterile environment.

It’s all very technical and involves negative-pressure wound therapy, but the idea is that the skin heals with reduced scarring. When the healing is done, the skin color is good and much healthier than what we’ve been able to achieve in the past. The soldier has a much better chance of getting on with a normal life than was formerly possible.

By rebuilding a face, you not only restore a sense of identity, but increase the chance of a more independent life for the injured. I don’t know if there is anything more encouraging than that!

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