Air Force Docs Recount Patient With Explosive in Head

Surgeons and other doctors say training and professionalism kept them safe.

ByABC News
April 12, 2010, 6:33 PM

April 12, 2010— -- "I think we have a problem."

Those were the words that Lt. Col. Anthony Terreri, a doctor and chief radiologist at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan said he uttered to his CT scan technologists before racing to the operating room to inform the surgeon that his next patient had a bomb lodged inside his head.

Desperate situations are no rarity in any emergency operating room, of course, but rarely does the threat of a bomb come so close to the edge of the surgeon's knife as it did last month, when an Afghan National Army soldier arrived with the explosive embedded in his skull.

Following media reports last week on the incident, the doctors involved offered their first-hand accounts of the operation -- and no one knew of the explosive until Terreri had inspected the images from the CT scan.

"The first thing I did was try to adjust the contrast of the image to get a better look at the object and realized the center was not made of metal and I could see through the metal jacket," Terreri said.

What he saw was the trademark architecture of an unexploded shell. The 2.5-inch unexploded ordnance had become lodged under a portion of the patient's skull during an improvised explosive device attack.

"I went straight to the [operating room] to inform the neurosurgeon of the situation as there are procedures that have to be followed in these instances -- non-essential personnel must leave the OR, explosive ordnance team must be notified, the surgeon must wear body armor, et cetera," Terreri said.