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Deployed military general internal physician’s toolkit: the recent past and near future
  1. Iain Parsons1,
  2. E J Hutley2,
  3. I Gibb3,
  4. J Lentaigne1,4,
  5. D Wilson5 and
  6. A T Cox
  1. 1 Military Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  2. 2 Defence Pathology, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham, UK
  3. 3 Defence Medical Services, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Lichfield, UK
  4. 4 Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  5. 5 Respiratory Medicine, University Hospital Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Iain Parsons, Military Medicine, Royal Centre for Defence Medicine, Birmingham B15 2SQ, UK; iainparsons{at}


Introduction The role of the military physician in Deployed Hospital Care involves the diagnosis and management of a wide variety of disease states. Broad clinical skills need to be complemented by judicious use of a limited array of investigations. No study has specifically quantified what investigations physicians use on operations.

Methods A retrospective cross-sectional study was performed to ascertain what investigations were undertaken on all patients managed by the General Internal Medicine teams over a 14 month period during a recent enduring operation in Afghanistan. A record was also made of investigations that were unavailable but considered desirable by the treating physician in order to inform clinical or occupational decisions.

Results 676 patients were admitted during the study period. Blood tests were performed in 96% of patients, plain radiographs in 50%, CT in 12% and ultrasound in 12%. An ECG was performed in over half (57%) and a peak flow in 11%. The most desirable, but unavailable, investigations were cardiac monitoring and echocardiography (24% and 12% of patients, respectively).

Discussion The data produced by this study both identified and quantified the investigations used by physicians during a mature operational deployment. This can be used in addition to accurate medical intelligence to inform and rationalise the diagnostic requirements for future operations as well as the provision of training. Technological advancements, particularly in weight and portability, are likely to enable more complex investigational modalities to be performed further forward on military deployments.

  • telemedicine
  • risk management
  • diagnostic microbiology
  • molecular diagnostics
  • internal medicine

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  • Contributors IP: drafting and research of the manuscript. EJH: critical review of the content. IG: critical review of the content and data collection. JL: data collection. DW: critical review of the content. ATC: drafting the manuscript and overarching review of the content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.