Medical Imaging Helped To Save Lives After Marathon Bombing

A new study looks at how imaging technologies saved lives and limbs.

A new study published Monday in the journal Arthritis Care & Research looked at how medical response and imaging technologies saved lives and limbs after the Boston Marathon bombings. For the study, researchers at the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) looked at the 264 injuries caused by the bombings and how imagery was used in evaluations and treatments.

The study concluded that each extremity should be looked at for musculoskeletal, neurological, and vascular damage separately and that the radiography (X-ray) and computed tomography (CT-scan) “should be used liberally to detect foreign objects, to define basic penetration patterns, and assess bony and soft tissue injuries,” the study says. In a press release, the study’s lead author says that in today’s society, unfortunately, even doctors that aren’t in the military should understand bomb injuries.:

“In an era of terrorism, even clinicians serving non-military patients need to understand the spectrum of injuries caused by bomb explosions,” explains lead author Dr. Ali Guermazi, Professor of Radiology at Boston University School of Medicine and one of the many specialists who treated bombing victims at Boston Medical Center. “Critically ill bomb-blast patients needed quick assessments of their injuries, which had the most devastating effects to the lower limbs.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bombing survivors have the highest incidence of injury to soft tissue and musculoskeletal systems. In three percent of bombing cases, amputation is necessary. The study says that victims of the Boston Marathon bombing were subject to blast waves and blast wind resulting in soft tissue damage, limb fractures, and amputations.

As a blast wave moves from the site of the explosion it creates a vacuum, which pulls materials and debris back toward the source of the bomb blast—the refilling of this void is known as the blast wind. Dr. Guermazi concludes, “While blast injuries within civilian populations are rare in the U.S., when they do occur it challenges the medical community to rapidly respond to concurrent evaluation and treatment of many victims. We suggest that in urgent situations, like the Boston Marathon bombing, radiology resources be used liberally to save the lives and limbs of patients.”