Neurosurg Focus. 2022 Sep;53(3):E17. doi: 10.3171/2022.6.FOCUS22242.
The tenets of neurosurgery worldwide, whether in the civilian or military sector, espouse vigilance, the ability to adapt, extreme ownership, and, of course, an innate drive for developing a unique set of technical skills. At a time in history when the complexity of battlefield neurotrauma climaxed coupled with a chronic shortage of military neurosurgeons, modernized solutions were mandated in order to deliver world-class neurological care to our servicemen and servicewomen. Complex blast injuries, as caused by an increased incidence of improvised explosive devices, yielded widespread systemic inflammatory responses with multiorgan damage. In response to these challenges, the "NeuroTeam," originally a unit of two neurosurgeons as deployed during Operation Desert Storm, was redesigned to instead pair a neurosurgeon with a neurointensivist and launched itself during two specialized missions in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Representing a hybridized version of present-day neurocritical care teams, the purpose of this unit was to optimize neurosurgical care by focusing on interdisciplinary collaboration in an Echelon III combat support hospital. The NeuroTeam provided unique workflow capabilities never seen collectively on the battlefield: downrange neurosurgical capability by a board-certified neurological surgeon within 60 minutes from the point of injury paired with a neurocritical care-trained intensivist. This also set the stage for intraoperative telemedicine infrastructure for neurosurgery and optimized the ability to evaluate, triage, and stabilize patients prior to medical evacuation. This novel military partnership ultimately allowed the neurosurgeon to focus on the tenets of the craft and thereby the dynamic needs of the patient first and foremost. Since the success of these missions, the NeuroTeam has evolved into a detachable unit, the "Head and Neck Team," comprising neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, and ophthalmologists, supported by a postinjury hospital unit, which includes an embedded neurocritical care physician. The creation and evolution of the NeuroTeam, necessitated by a shortage of military neurosurgeons and the dangerous shift in military wartime tactics, best exemplifies multidisciplinary collaboration and military medicine agility. As neurocritical care continues to evolve into a highly complex, distinct specialty, the lessons learned by the NeuroTeam ultimately serve as a reminder for civilian and military physicians alike. Despite the conditions and despite one's professional ego, patients with highly complex morbid neurological disease deserve expert, multidisciplinary management for survival.
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