Afghanistan: Live Explosives Removed From Soldier's Head

X-Rays oddities

Risking a deadly explosion in the operating room, doctors at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan surgically removed an explosive device from the head of an Afghan National Army Soldier last month, according to the Air Force News Service.

The 2.5-inch unexploded ordnance became lodged under a portion ofthe patient's skull during an improvised explosive device attack. But when the patient arrived for treatment, doctors thought it was only a piece of scrap metal, the Air Force reported.

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"Initially, I thought it was a spent end of some sort of larger round," Lt. Col. Anthony Terreri, the radiologist at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital who checked the patient's CAT scan, told the Air Force.

"I saw that it was not solid metal on the inside," he said. "I then looked at the [CAT scan] image and could see there was an air gap on one end and what looked almost like the tip of a tube of lipstick at the end and decided this didn't look quite right."

Unnecessary personnel were immediately evacuated and an explosive ordnance disposal team was summoned in preparation for surgery, Maj. John Bini, the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group-Task Force Medical East trauma director, told the Air Force.

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Several patients and personnel had to stay on, however, because they could not be evacuated for medical reasons.

"It was kind of a case of Murphy's Law coming into play," Tech. Sgt. William Carter, a medical technician at the hospital, told the Air Force.

"We had an [operating room] full of trauma cases and we had people in other rooms who were busy taking care of patients and it was really an all-hands-on-deck event."

Donning body armor and crossing their fingers, the trauma team at Bagram went to work to remove the ordnance. Luckily, things went off without a hitch, Bini told the Air Force.

The ordnance safely removed, neurosurgery on the patient commenced.

Device Removed, Prognosis Is Promising

"The images available on the CT scan shows a depressed skull fracture involving the right front part of the brain," said Dr. David Palestrant, director of neurocritical care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Palestrant said it was fortunate the explosive did not penetrate the soldier's head deeper than it had, but he added,"The force of the impact can still cause significant injury to brain structures that may not be apparent at first."

Trauma director Bini told the Air Force, "The patient does have a traumatic brain injury but his neurologic condition continues to improve on a daily basis."

Given that the device did not penetrate the brain, added Dr. Antonio Chiocca, chairman of Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, "his prognosis should be relatively good."

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