The trimodal death distribution of trauma victims: Military experience from the Lebanon war

Ofer Nathan Gofrit*, Dan Leibovici, Shmuel Chaim Shapira, Joshua Shemer, Michael Stein, Moshe Michaelson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Mortality in war is traditionally divided into two categories: killed in action and died of wounds. Mortality in civilian trauma is generally divided into three categories: immediate death (50%), early death (30%), and late death (20%). Can we identify a trimodal death distribution among war victims? Methods: We analyzed data for casualties in the Lebanon War from June 6 to September 20, 1982. During this period a total of 1,950 soldiers were injured; 351 (18%) of them died. Time of injury and time of death of the victims was determined from real-time recordings during the battle and from hospital files. Results: Analyzing the time of death revealed that 329 of the soldiers (93.7%) died within the first hour after injury, 7 soldiers died 1 to 4 hours after injury (2%), and 15 soldiers died 24 hours to 75 days after injury (4.3%). The most common causes of death during the first hour after injury were central nervous system (CNS) injuries 31%, exsanguination 30%, incineration 21%, and combined CNS injury and exsanguination 10.9%. Exsanguination was the leading cause of death 1 to 4 hours after the injury (86%). CNS injury was the most common cause of late death (60%). Only 1.1% of the soldiers who reached the hospital alive died of their wounds. Conclusions: A trimodal mortality distribution with different causes of death in each peak can be identified in the mortality pattern of Israeli soldiers during the Lebanon War. The relative height of the different peaks and the causes of death in the third peak are different from those found in civilian trauma. We believe that prompt medical treatment and expeditious evacuation from the battle zone led to a very low death rate among the wounded soldiers who had reached the hospital alive. The same factors may have increased the relative portion of CNS injuries as a cause of late death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-26
Number of pages3
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1997


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