Battlefield Genitourinary Damage Alters Lives Beyond Physical Injuries

By Annette M. Boyle

Lt. Col. Steven J. Hudak, MD, Urology Clinic, Department of Surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX.

SAN ANTONIO — Recent improvements in battlefield medical care have allowed more servicemembers to survive devastating injuries. At the same time, the number of wounded warriors with genitourinary injuries has shot up sharply, with life-altering consequences the DoD and VA are just now coming to fully understand.

An analysis of genitourinary (GU) injuries in nearly 1,400 U.S. servicemembers found that new treatments for and greater attention to the impact of these injuries on all aspects of life is sorely needed, according to a study published recently in The Journal of Urology.1

“Deployment-related GU trauma is a uniquely-devastating injury that has become increasingly common during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said lead investigator Lt. Col. Steven J. Hudak, MD, Urology Clinic, Department of Surgery, Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, TX.

“We found in both the clinical evidence and the epidemiological evidence that the severity of genitourinary injury parallels the severity of polytrauma injury. These young servicemembers are facing challenges from amputation, head and neck injuries, abdominal injuries and traumatic brain injury,” he told U.S. Medicine. GU injuries can complicate an already-challenging course of recovery by adding urinary, sexual and reproductive dysfunction to the mix.

“The impact of sexual and reproductive problems may be amplified for younger individuals who are still in the process of sexual identity development, who are unmarried and/or who wish to father children,” Hudak emphasized.

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