September 11, 2009

Plastic surgeons key in disaster planning

Including plastic surgeons in disaster relief response could improve long-term outcomes for victims of catastrophes, doctors in Texas said.

Plastic surgeons should be added to the list of emergency responders in natural disasters and terrorist attacks, emergency planners at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center said in a release.

Plastic surgeons at, or near, the scene of an emergency could prevent and treat face and tissue scarring, and burns, and handle sensitive nerve-related injuries, said Dr. Rod Rohrich, chairman of plastic surgery at Southwestern.

Rohrich and his team examined responses from disaster events around the world, including the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, and found a substantial number of cases involved plastic surgery-related issues.

In the trade center attacks, just 26 percent of burn victims were correctly triaged first to a burn center, despite there being an adequate number of dedicated burn beds in the area, Rohrich said.

"The plastic surgeons should be seen as pivotal members, let alone additional assets, for the medical casualty care team, Rohrich said.