The heavy body armor worn by U.S. troops also has been a factor in reducing fatalities. About two-thirds of all trauma injuries are the result of shrapnel from powerful roadside or suicide bombings, [Richard Briggs] said. The rest are gunshot wounds. The armor is being modified in response to a Pentagon study that found side plates could have saved many American lives in Iraq.
As much as anything, the soldier benefited from Briggs' 25 years of practice in trauma surgery, and his more recent experience in the field. In the United States, Briggs might never see a wound like the sergeant's, but at Ibn Sina, he had treated two in one week. He and other members of his surgical team regularly rehearse and review the procedures because they are under enormous pressure when the injured come in.
The work pace is brutal. Briggs and the other surgeons average 17 major trauma surgeries a day. Although theoretically they work in three shifts, "you are always on," Briggs said. "You are dealing with human tragedy constantly. All these are young people in the prime of their lives."