Monthly Discussion Banner

What medical research is important to improving the lives of soldiers injured in combat?

Discussion Leader: 
Posted Date: 10/26/2015

Recent advancements in prosthetics are improving the lives of soldiers returning from the battlefield. New technologies and medical capabilities, including 3D printing of organs and tissues as well as prosthetic limbs with skin-like sensory capabilities enhance the quality of life of recipients. 

Prosthetics. Photo courtesy Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (DARPA/JHUAPL)


The appearance of external hyperlinks in this publication does not constitute endorsement by the HDIAC or the United States Department of Defense (DoD) of the linked sites, nor the information, products, or services contained therein. The HDIAC is a DOD sponsored Information Analysis Center (IAC), with policy oversight provided by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD(R&E)), and administratively managed by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). Reference herein to any specific commercial products, process, or services by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or the HDIAC. Any views or opinions expressed in the Question of the Week do not represent those of HDIAC, DTIC or the DoD.


A lot of the injuries of returning soldiers cannot be fixed with physical measures. The mental health of soldiers and treatment of PTSD is another important consideration for improving the quality of life after service. Mental health concerns often do not get the attention and care they deserve, but it appears the military has been making a concerted effort to change that in recent years. Research and efforts in this area should continue.

It is impressive to see what doctors and medical researchers are able to achieve. Prosthetic limbs may be able to sense touch in a way similar to human skin. Research is being done on new alternatives to skin grafting. Both of these advancements could make huge strides in quality of life for wounded soldiers. Research needs to continue in these fields. Medical technologies that can be applied or utilized in the field to provide lifesaving measures, are also a necessity. 

Another area of research that is highlighted in the news recently are materials that can prevent fatal blood loss. Since hemorrhage remains one of the leading causes of death among military personnel, creating a technology that reduces the immediate need to rush to a medical treatment facility has huge impacts on improving the lives of soldiers injured in combat. Advances such as topical hemostatic agents and therapeutic foam have played a huge role in reducing the number of combat casualty deaths due to blood loss.

Conditions on the battlefield are not going to be as advanced as what will be found in high level medical facilities. For this reason, medical advances that are tailored to address specific needs of injuries on the battlefield are needed. Medical advancements with the warfighter in mind need to be faster acting than civilian counterparts and capable of being administered under stressful circumstance such as during conflict or in isolated areas away from more advanced medical equipment. At the very least, being able to maintain the health of the soldier until they can be transferred to a traditional medical facility should be a top priority.

Combat injuries are common on the battle field and often involve high-velocity shells. Reducing the time from when a soldier is injured in the field to when they can get treatment is an area where medical research would be advantageous in improving the lives of soldiers who are injured in combat. Research in rapid response treatment of orthopedic injuries and rapid revascularization may help minimize complications and prevent long complicated recovery times.

I believe research into reconstructive technologies like improved prosthetics and 3D printing are crucial for soldiers returning from the battlefield with physical injuries. They offer new opportunities for injured soldiers to lead more normal lives, and it seems that recently there has been an increase in these types of injuries due to the use of Improvised Explosive Devices. Also important is continued research into the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and other mental issues soldiers deal with as a result of deployment. I believe that both of these areas have a lot of potential to positively impact soldiers' lives.