Newswise — Bethesda, MD – Service members are surviving catastrophic combat injuries because of advances in body armor, the far-forward deployment of advanced medical resources, and the integration of a learning health care system that can rapidly effect change, but because there is limited precedence for caring for such complex and life-threatening injuries, the costs for critical care of these types of injuries can skyrocket. A new DoD-led and -funded initiative has been launched aimed at improving clinical outcomes and reducing the cost of care for critically ill patients for the benefit of both military and civilian healthcare systems.

The Surgical Critical Care Initiative (SC2i) was established at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) here under the leadership of Navy Capt. (Dr.) Eric Elster, chair of the university’s Normal M. Rich Department Surgery. USU will partner with the Naval Medical Research Center, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Emory University, Duke University and DecisionQ, to develop decision-making tools for the management of complex and critically injured patients and translating these advances into clinical practice.

SC2i investigators will analyze data collected in standard practice in both the military and civilian health care systems, leveraging lessons learned from recent conflicts, to establish tools that support clinical decision-making and accelerate assessments, ultimately saving thousands of health care dollars.

SC2i will undertake a number of projects across several disciplines, including integrated research platforms across all of the partnering institutions and rapid turnaround of innovation into deliverable products. Some of initial areas the SC2i will focus on include wound closure, targeting severe infections, decompensation in the intensive care unit, and decisions surrounding surgical interventions in traumatic brain injury patients.

"A decade of conflict has resulted in the lowest mortality rate in the history of conflict despite an increasing injury severity. As a result, the injury patterns that we are presented with are among the most complex and challenging seen in modern medicine. The aim of this effort is to change critical care by enhancing decision-making by making better use of information. This is a direct benefit from the experience gained in taking care of wounded warriors over the past decade,” said Elster.

The Department of Defense Health Program funds the work.

About USU:USU, founded by an act of Congress in 1972, is the academic heart of the Military Health System. USU students are primarily active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Public Health Service who receive specialized education in tropical and infectious diseases, TBI and PTSD, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, global health, and acute trauma care. A large percentage of the university’s more than 5,200 physician and 790 advanced practice nursing alumni are supporting operations around the world, offering their leadership and expertise. USU also has graduate programs in biomedical sciences and public health committed to excellence in research, and in oral biology. The University's research program covers a wide range of clinical and basic science important to both the military and public health. For more information, visit

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