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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Surgery in War Zone

Aired April 5, 2003 - 06:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, traveling with the Devil Docs. He is in central Iraq. When we checked in with Sanjay in the last hour, he was very close to a helicopter, so the helicopter has cleared out; another chance to check in with Dr. Gupta.
Sanjay -- hello.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, hello, Daryn. Yes, the helicopter has cleared out for the time being, but I'll tell you, they keep coming in and out, no surprise of them bringing patients in and taking patients out. The numbers that I heard, about 70 patients over 30 hours. You can do the math there.

But it is very busy here. A lot of those patients coming from this tent. This is called the SST, shock, stabilization and triage. Some of those patients then going to the operating room. That's in the tent just ahead of me. And then after that, there is sort of a makeshift ICU, or intensive care unit.

Again, very busy. About 70 percent or so of the patients, Iraqi; about 30 percent are coalition force members.

Now, Daryn, we've seen some interesting patterns emerge. First of all, the types of injuries that were expected before anything started were mainly orthopedic injuries, which I know you know about, the extremity injuries, injuries to the arms and legs. That's because of the good protective gear -- flap jackets and helmets -- that was for the coalition forces, and that proved to be true.

But they're also seeing a lot of head injuries, lots of abdominal injuries, lots of chest injuries, the majority of those now being in the Iraqis because of the difference in protective gear.

So in one way, you know, the head injuries really weren't expected as much as we're seeing, but because of the lack of helmets in the Iraqi forces they're seeing a lot more than they expected.

Again, Daryn, this is the most forward surgical unit in this battle about 40 miles south of Baghdad. A lot of the fighting that I know you've been hearing so much about, a lot of the casualties, a lot of the injuries showing up right here. Very, very busy, these guys are working really hard, Braddall (ph) Surgical Company, 24/7 they're on, four operating rooms, this tent and the ICU.

Daryn -- back to you. KAGAN: Well, Sanjay, I see you're working pretty hard. I understand you were pressed into duty yet again, not only reporting for us here on CNN, but also performing surgery once again. What were the conditions, and what was the situation that caused you to do that?

GUPTA: Right, Daryn, you know, an interesting sort of thing, and as you know, we've developed a rapport with the doctors, the Devil Docs here. They know that I'm a neurosurgeon. There isn't a neurosurgeon that's actually part of this surgical unit, and as I was mentioning earlier, they really didn't expect as many head injuries as they're seeing.

A patient came in with a significant gunshot wound to the head, to the right side of the head. The doctors over here, the general surgeons asked me if I would take a look at that patient, which I did, and then took that patient to the operating room and performed an operation, basically a live-saving to try and save the patient's life. There are no elective operations done in this sort of setting.

Daryn, a very interesting situation obviously...

KAGAN: All right, it looks like we lost Dr. Sanjay Gupta, only temporarily. We'll try to make contact with him again and find out about the fascinating work of the Devil Docs.

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