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Military Amputees Get ‘World-Renowned’ Medical Care, Official Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2007 – Servicemembers who have lost limbs as a result of wounds received in Afghanistan or Iraq are receiving the best medical care available, the future director of the new U.S. Army Amputee Patient Care Center annex slated to open at Walter Reed by October 2007 told Defense Health Board members here today.

The Defense Department’s medical community provides “world-renowned amputee care, assisting our patients as they return to the highest level of physical, psychological, and emotional function,” retired Army Col. Charles R. Scoville said at a health board meeting at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Scoville, a physical therapist, is the executive secretary for the Defense Health Board’s Care of Individuals with Amputations and Functional Limb Loss subcommittee panel.

The board was established Oct. 1, 2006. It advises the secretary of defense on programs, policies, research programs and requirements for the treatment and prevention of disease and injury, the promotion of health and delivery of health care services to Defense Department beneficiaries.

Military amputee care in the past basically consisted of getting patients well and mobile enough to be discharged from the armed services and transferred to follow-on care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Scoville recalled. That old “blueprint” for amputee medical care has totally changed, he said.

At the beginning of the war against global terrorism, Scoville recalled, the military’s amputee care program focused on servicemembers who’d suffered major limb loss. “We realized (later on) that there were a large number of individuals, also, with functional limb loss (such as) knee fusions, multiple fractures, nerve damage” and other injuries that could eventually result in amputation.”

These types of injuries “expanded our scope to look at how we’re providing care for that population, as well,” Scoville said. Today, there are 572 military amputees undergoing medical care, he said.

Thanks to the latest rehabilitation regimes and high-tech prosthetics many military amputees can opt to continue to serve and live the active ‘Warrior Athlete’ lives they’d enjoyed before they were injured, the retired colonel said.

“We’ve been successful,” Scoville said, noting 63 such individuals have returned to active duty. Eight of these servicemembers “have deployed back in theater for a second or third rotation,” he added.

As additional amputee patients arrived at Walter Reed, it became apparent that more care centers were needed, Scoville said. So, two more military amputee medical care facilities were established in San Antonio and San Diego, he said.

All facilities have been upgraded to provide quality, longer-term care, Scoville said, as recovering military amputee patients undergo time-consuming and intense rehabilitation regimes and are fitted with high-tech prosthetics that were unavailable in the past.

“We’ve made renovations to (existing) facilities and we’ve developed new faculties to provide the care,” Scoville said.

After Walter Reed closes in 2011 as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, amputee services will be moved to a new joint medical facility to be built at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md.

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