NYMC Faculty Publications

Global Neurosurgery Advances From Trenches to Bedside: Lessons From Neurosurgical Care in War, Humanitarian Assistance, and Disaster Response

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Student, Faculty

Journal Title

Military Medicine

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INTRODUCTION: War has influenced the evolution of global neurosurgery throughout the past century. Armed conflict and mass casualty disasters (MCDs), including Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Relief missions, require military surgeons to innovate to meet extreme demands. However, the military medical apparatus is seldom integrated into the civilian health care sector. Neurosurgeons serving in the military have provided a pragmatic template for global neurosurgeons to emulate in humanitarian disaster responses. In this paper, we explore how wars and MCD have influenced innovations of growing interest in the resource-limited settings of global neurosurgery. METHODS: We performed a narrative review of the literature examining the influence of wars and MCD on contemporary global neurosurgery practices. RESULTS: Wartime innovations that influenced global neurosurgery include the development of triage systems and modernization with airlifts, the implementation of ambulance corps, early operation on cranial injuries in hospital camps near the battlefield, the use of combat body armor, and the rise of damage control neurosurgery. In addition to promoting task-shifting and task-sharing, workforce shortages during wars and disasters contributed to the establishment of the physician assistant/physician associate profession in the USA. Low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) face similar challenges in developing trauma systems and obtaining advanced technology, including neurosurgical equipment like battery-powered computed tomography scanners. These challenges-ubiquitous in low-resource settings-have underpinned innovations in triage and wound care, rapid evacuation to tertiary care centers, and minimizing infection risk. CONCLUSION: War and MCDs have catalyzed significant advancements in neurosurgical care both in the pre-hospital and inpatient settings. Most of these innovations originated in the military and subsequently spread to the civilian sector as military neurosurgeons and reservist civilian neurosurgeons returned from the battlefront or other low-resource locations. Military neurosurgeons have utilized their experience in low-resource settings to make volunteer global neurosurgery efforts in LMICs successful. LMICs have, by necessity, responded to challenges arising from resource shortages by developing innovative, context-specific care paradigms and technologies.