• The blast wounded of Raqqa, Syria: observational results from an MSF-supported district hospital.

      OKeeffe, J; Vernier, L; Cramond, V; Majeed, S; Carrion Martin, AI; Hoetjes, M; Amirtharajah, M (BioMed Central, 2019-06-20)
      BACKGROUND: In June 2017, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched a military operation to retake the city of Raqqa, Syria, from the so-called Islamic State. The city population incurred mass numbers of wounded. In the post-offensive period, the population returned to a city (Raqqa) contaminated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and explosive remnants of war (ERWs), resulting in a second wave of wounded patients. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supported a hospital in Tal-Abyad (north of Raqqa) and scaled up operations in response to this crisis. We describe the cohort of blast-wounded cases admitted to this hospital in order help prepare future humanitarian responses. METHODS: We retrospectively extracted data from clinical charts in the MSF-supported hospital. We included all new admissions for blast-wounded patients with key data elements documented. We performed comparative analyses from the offensive period (June 6, 2017 to October 17, 2017) and the post-offensive period (October 18, 2017 to March 17, 2018). RESULTS: We included 322 blast related injuries. There were more than twice the number of cases with blast injuries in the post-offensive period as the offensive period (225 vs. 97, p = <.001). The offensive period saw a significantly higher proportion of female patients (32.0%, n = 31 vs. 11.1%, n = 25, p < 0.001) and paediatric patients (42.3%, n = 41 vs 24.9%, n = 56, p = 0.002). Blast-injured patients in the post-offensive period included more cases with multiple traumatic injuries (65.8%, n = 148 vs. 39.2%, n = 38, p < 0.001). The treatment of the blast-injured cases in the post-offensive period was more labor intensive with those patients having a higher median number of interventions (2 vs 1, p = <0.001) and higher median number of days in hospital (7 vs 4, p = < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: In the wake of the Raqqa offensive, the MSF-supported district hospital received an unpredicted second, larger and more complex wave of blast-wounded cases as the population returned to a city strewn with IEDs and ERWs. These findings indicate the high risk of traumatic injury to the population even after warring factions have vacated conflict zones. Medical humanitarian actors should be prepared for a continued and scaled up response in areas known to be highly contaminated with explosive ordnance.