Researchers from The Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies (CBIS) at Imperial College London have calculated that lifetime care for UK service personnel who have suffered blast injuries and amputations resulting from the Afghanistan conflict will cost a reported £288 million, according to a news release from Imperial College London.

The study was published recently in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. According to the release, it highlights the need for policymakers to develop a long-term approach for caring for amputees, and sheds light on the continued research needed to understand the long-term impact of blast injuries.

At CBIS, engineers and scientists collaborate with military doctors to improve protective gear and develop better treatments for people injured by roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which reportedly were a leading cause of injury among UK personnel serving in Afghanistan, the release notes.

In their study, researchers found that from the first roadside blast casualty in 2003 to the withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan in 2014, UK personnel experienced 265 casualties resulting in 416 amputations. The most common type of amputation was above the knee (153 amputations), followed by below the knee (143 amputations), per the release.

In carrying out the study, the research team first broke down the base costs in the UK over an average remaining lifetime of 40 years for a single amputation, which were: £0.87 million ($US 1.34 million) for a transtibial or below-the-knee amputation; £1.16 million ($US 1.79 million) for a through-the-knee amputation; and £1.16 million ($US 1.79 million) for a transfemoral or above-the-knee amputation, the release explains.

They then compared their costs to a study carried out in 2010 showing the estimated healthcare costs for US troops who experienced an amputation as a result of the Afghanistan conflict, the release explains. That study showed the lifetime healthcare costs for US amputee veterans were: $US 0.82 million for those who had lost an arm, $US 1.46 million for those who had lost a leg, $US 2.12 million for those who had lost both arms, and $US 2.90 million for those who lost multiple limbs.

In all, the research team calculated that costs to support UK troops over an average remaining lifetime of 40 years will be approximately £288 million, when the combined cost of trauma care, rehabilitation, and prosthetics are factored in.

However, the team notes in the release that the overall costs could climb even higher when factoring in the following: illnesses not directly related to blast injuries; amputees receiving new prosthetics, following design improvements; and economic losses resulting in veterans being forced to drop out of the workforce due to their injuries.

“Understanding the cost implications is an important part of planning how to care for injured veterans in the long term, in order to make their lives more comfortable,” says study co-author Anthony MJ Bull, PhD, professor of musculoskeletal mechanics at University College London and director of CBIS.

“This paper should alert health commissioners to the scale of the problem, and help them to plan ahead to meet the lifetime health care needs of this generation,” says Sue Freeth, director of operations at CBIS.

“Many of the injured veterans from Afghanistan have survived only because of the innovation of modern military and NHS medicine and medics on the battlefield, and the need for a lifetime of health care to support them is in danger of being over looked as the spotlight moves away from this conflict,” Freeth fears.

[Source(s): Imperial College London, Science Daily]