A team of plastic and orthopedic surgeons achieved a high success rate in limb salvage—minimizing the need for amputations—among patients injured in last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, reports a study in the June issue of the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Mobilized in the acute phase of disaster response, this "ortho-plastic limb salvage team" approach provides expert surgical care to severely injured patients under the most difficult conditions. "This study gives valuable information on the range and frequency of procedures over time, which can be used to help in the preparation for any future emergencies and demonstrates a low amputation rate for the patients treated," according to the new report by Dr Anthony James Clover of Cork University Hospital, Ireland, and colleagues.
Clover and colleagues detail their experience on a surgical team that traveled to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake on January 12, 2010. The trip was organized by the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, in partnership with Medical Emergency Response International. A preliminary team was on the ground in Haiti by January 15. By January 20, surgical procedures were being performed in a tent hospital set up on a tennis court in a suburb of Port-au-Prince.
The team followed a combined orthopedic/plastic surgery approach to managing severe limb injuries. The focus was on avoiding amputation whenever possible. A rotating staff of five plastic surgeons, five orthopedic surgeons, and five anesthetists, supported by traveling and local nurses, performed the operations. During the 10 week trip, 348 operations were performed on 148 patients — an average of 47 surgeries per week.