Serving those who have served: Medical innovation program aims to improve lives of those injured in combat

Service members who survive serious injuries too often live with pain and disability

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – During the war in Afghanistan, military advancements provided unprecedented protection for service members in harm’s way. And although this has drastically improved survival for those injured in combat, it has also resulted in an increase in amputations and veterans living with debilitating injuries and disabilities. Now, a new program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is honoring these veterans  by using innovation and medical research to improve their lives.

“No injury is the same, so we have to think creatively to come up with solutions that will work for each patient, and that’s how we continue to expand our capabilities,” said Dr. Jason Souza, director of the Orthoplastic Reconstruction Program and associate professor in plastic and orthopedic surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “We look at what tissue we have to work with, how we can leverage technology to fill some of the gaps and how to think beyond just putting back what’s been lost to restore function.” 

The Military Medicine Program is already having a major impact for veterans like Nick Vogt, who lost both legs after an IED exploded while he was leading his platoon in Afghanistan in 2011. Even after recovering, daily life was extremely difficult and he was unable to sit upright for more than a few minutes at a time. Finally, he found Souza, who performed a 12-hour surgery that changed his life and allowed him to be more engaged with his wife and two children every day.

“For years I couldn’t even enjoy a meal with my family without having to lay on my side because there was just skin on bone under my pelvis, which easily degrades and is very painful,” Vogt said. “Dr. Souza was able to take a flap of my skin from my back — and also layers of fat and the vessels underneath, which is critical — and put that where I needed the padding.” 

Surgeons with the Military Medicine Program are also making advancements to address nerve pain through reconstruction and rewiringt and pioneering a procedure to improve prosthetics by anchoring them into the bone rather than bearing weight on a socket. Both of these are common issues for combat-wounded veterans, and these solutions are reducing chronic pain, increasing mobility and improving lives. 

“I knew early on in my career that I wanted to dedicate my research and skills to helping those who served in the military,” said Dr. Amy Moore, renowned peripheral nerve surgeon and chair of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at The Wexner Medical Center. “There’s more to living than just being alive, and with this Military Medicine Program we are really focused on helping veterans thrive. To be able to give back to these amazing men and women who are in pain or are living with an injury, there’s no words to express what that means to me other than to say that it’s an honor.”

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Dr. Jason Souza examines Nick Vogt at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to assess his recovery after surgery. Vogt lost both legs after being injured in the war in Afghanistan, and Souza was able to graft skin, fat and blood vessels to provide padding that allows him to sit upright for extended periods of time without pain.

Nick Vogt lost both of his legs after he was injured by an IED while deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2011. For years, bone-on-skin contact made it difficult to even sit upright, but an innovative surgery provided the padding needed to help him live a more normal life with his wife and two children.

Nick Vogt lost both of legs after being injured by an IED while deployed with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. Vogt is now able to sit upright and spend time with his wife, Lauren, and their two children after an innovative surgery to graft skin and fat to provide padding and prevent tissue degradation.

Dr. Jason Souza is a Navy veteran and plastic surgeon at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He has dedicated his career to finding solutions to help combat-wounded veterans thrive by reducing chronic pain and increasing functionality.

Dr. Amy Moore (right) knew early in her career that she would dedicate her research and practice to helping those who have served in the military. Her advancements in nerve growth and reconstruction are helping to reduce chronic pain for veterans who have sustained combat injuries.



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