The anaesthetist in a war zone

It takes a team to save a life in a war zone. Recognising the vital need for anaesthetists in conflict, we developed a bespoke anaesthesia course, to prepare anaesthetists for working in war hospitals. One of our experienced trainers, Dr Hussein Nagi, recently taught anaesthetists from Kuwait who are heading to Palestine. 

Managing pain in different ways

“Treatment and anaesthesia do not end in the operative theatre. In a war zone, you could have a whole ward of people with post-operative pain, for example after amputations. Anaesthetists must do what they can with what they have to continue their care,” shared Dr Nagi in Kuwait.

“A colleague once shared that a boy was screaming in the night with phantom limb pain after getting an amputation, he was shouting ‘my toe is hurting’. His toes were not there.

They found a stock of epidural kits in their hospital (for maternal care) and gave it to him through a catheter – the boy was almost pain free. You can resolve severe pain, by nerve blocking, with a range of drugs. You just need to be able to adapt to your environment.”

Our course teachers share tips and tricks just like this, with the goal of making anaesthetists adaptable to the challenges of a conflict-affected environment.

The science behind war

A trainee from Kuwait, during our latest HEST-A course in the Middle East, shared: “The trainers were combining their war experience with theoretical teaching, which added a lot to the course – showing us what to expect.

There were three main sessions that I learned the most from. Damage control, the ballistics science behind bullets and bombs, and the chemical weapons session. They’re not taught during medical training so knowing more about them, how to deal with these situations, understanding the science to then anticipate what we may meet in A and E, was the highlight of the course.”

Triage is critical

“It was an impressive course. The most interesting part for me was the triage, and making decisions using the information we have learned over years in studies, but applying it to a conflict zone.

You have to adjust and accommodate to different situations, especially areas where you don’t have all the resources.

Gaza today urgently needs resources, food, water, equipment and man power. From what we hear from doctors on the ground, medical resources are much needed. It is very desperate.”

We have trained over 80 surgeons and anaesthetist in the UK and Kuwait who have, or intend to, volunteer their skills in Palestine’s frontline hospitals. We will continue to upskill doctors in support of the people of Gaza.