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Mine blast injuries: ocular and social aspects

Abstract

BACKGROUND/AIMS Landmines have long been used in conventional warfare. These are antipersonnel mines which continue to injure people long after a ceasefire without differentiating between friend or foe, soldier or civilian, women or children. This study focuses on Afghan non-combatants engaged in mine clearing operations in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Russo-Afghan war. The patterns and types of injuries seen are described and experiences in their management, ways, and means to prevent them, and recommendations for the rehabilitation of the affected individuals are given.

METHODS It is a retrospective and analytical study of 84 patients aged 19–56 years who sustained mine blast injuries during mine clearing operations in Afghanistan from November 1992 to January 1996. The study was carried out at a military hospital with tertiary care facilities. The patients were divided into three groups on the basis of their injuries. Group 1 required only general surgical attention, group 2 sustained only ocular injuries, while group 3 had combined ocular and general injuries. Patients in groups 2 and 3 were treated in two phases. The first phase aimed at immediate restoration of the anatomy, while restoration of function wherever possible was done in subsequent surgical procedures in the second phase.

RESULTS It was observed that 51 out of 84 patients (60.7%) had sustained ocular trauma of a variable degree as a result of the blasts. The mean age of the victims was 29 years and they were all male. A total of 91 eyes of 51 patients (89.2%) had been damaged. Bilaterality of damage was seen in 40 (78.4%) patients. Most, 34 (37.3%), eyes became totally blind (NPL). Only a few escaped with injury mild enough not to impair vision. Foreign bodies, small and multiple, were found in the majority of eyes; most, however, were found in the anterior segment, and posterior segment injuries were proportionally less.

CONCLUSIONS The prevalence of blindness caused by mine blast injuries is quite high. The resulting psychosocial trauma to the patients and their families is tremendous and has not been adequately highlighted. These injuries are a great drain on the country's resources. Enforcement of preventive measures and the use of protective gear and sophisticated equipment by the mine clearing personnel would prove to be far more economical in terms of human life as well as medical and economic resources. There is also need for greater attention towards the establishment of support groups and rehabilitation programmes for these individuals.

  • landmines
  • blast injuries
  • ocular trauma

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