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Global Health Watch: New trauma center in Britain uses procedures learned on the battlefield

January 21, 2011|By Janet Stobart, Los Angeles Times
  • Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Prince Charles visit the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in late December.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and Prince Charles… (Simon Dawson / Reuters )

LONDON -- Battlefield surgery is moving to Birmingham, England, where a center for the treatment of trauma and microbiology opened this week in the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Pioneering military surgeons and researchers will adapt techniques and knowledge learned in the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq to treat injuries resulting from civilian disasters like traffic accidents or terror attacks.

Funded by the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defense and Birmingham University Hospitals, the National Institute for Health Research Centre for Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology is "the first and only research centre of its kind in the U.K. to focus both on military and civilian care and treatment," the  Department of Health says in a statement.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham replaces two hospitals, including Selly Oak, which was equipped with a rehabilitation area for wounded military personnel as well as seriously injured civilians. The two are now united in the modern multi-story building with the $30 million trauma center.

Research at the center will focus on resuscitation techniques, post-operational surgical care for amputees and the severely wounded, and wound infection treatment. Early treatment is crucial to survival in seriously wounded patients and present-day techniques from battleground experience are already in use by British National Health medics.

Surgeon General Vice Admiral Philip Raffaelli put the military survival rate from such injuries at 26% compared with an overall average of 6%.

"Translational research efforts are needed to target the early phase of injury in order to develop novel therapies and interventions for pre-hospital and early in-hospital trauma care. The cross-learning fostered between the military and civilian health care settings will improve treatment options and care for all patients," said Sally Davies, director general of research and development at the Department of Health.

Heading the center as clinical director is Keith Porter, the U.K.’s only professor of clinical traumatology renowned for his pioneering treatment of wounded military personnel.

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