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September 2022
Avi Benov MD MHA, Shaul Gelikas MD MBA, Noam Fink MD, and Elon Glassberg MD MHA MBA

War is as old as history. Some may say it is older. The first Biblical war, dated 1880–1875 BCE, is depicted in the book of Genesis between nine kings in the vicinity of the Jordan river near Jericho. By the end of the war, Abraham (Abram) gets involved in saving his nephew Lot.

In addition to war, military medicine also has its roots in historical times. Hippocrates (460–377 BCE), the father of medicine, derived his medical knowledge from the battlefield, and Sushruta [1], the father of plastic surgery, mentioned the physician's preventive role in noting environmental hazards: "A common practice of the enemy is to poison the wells on the roadside, the articles of food, the shades of trees, and the fuel and forage for cattle; hence, it is incumbent on a physician marching with the troops to inspect, examine, and purify these before using any of them, in case they are poisoned."

The Greeks stated new ideas of military health, pointing to fitness promotion, gymnastics, and healthy diets to prevent illness. Over the centuries, from Alexander the Great to Napoleon’s army and wars in the 20th century, military conflicts have led to the death of hundreds of millions of people from trauma and war-related disease. Amazingly analyses of the 18th and 19th centuries have shown that 80% of the soldiers died from disease, and historians and military personnel agree that during armed conflicts in known history, only a minority of soldiers perished by the sword.

In Israel, the Israel Defense Forces-Medical Corps (IDF-MC) holds a unique position embedded in military and civilian national medicine. All medical personnel (e.g., physicians, nurses, technicians, veterinarians) who work in the IDF-MC receive their diplomas from civilian universities, train in civilian hospitals, and continue to practice in the national health system. The majority of these professionals continue to work in different civilian medical platforms in Israel after finishing their mandatory service. The IDF-MC's primary mission is to provide optimal medical care to IDF soldiers at all times (including wartime), to prevent disease and promote health, advance military medicine, and aid the civilian sector as ordered by the Government of Israel.

In this special issue of Israel Medical Association Journal (IMAJ) is to expose readers to the continuous efforts of the IDF-MC to fulfill its mission by promoting research in multiple medical fields, including trauma, ambulatory care, health administration. In addition, in this issue of IMAJ, authors discuss the unique collaboration with the civilian system during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Trauma and trauma-related injuries are the main focus of military medical research. Ben-Avi and colleagues [2] described outcomes of emergent exploratory thoracotomies on military casualties and addresses parameters that may impact the survival of these casualties. Minervini [3] further discussed the issue. Bez et al. [4] researched the impact of isolated versus non-isolated traumatic brain injuries on injury identification and decision-making by care providers in austere scenarios. Tsur and co-authors [5] described the characteristics of a unique type of terror attack: vehicle ramming.

Additional examples of treatments provided in the military prehospital arena were analyzed by Nakar and colleagues [6] who discussed how to assess pain medications administered to trauma casualties in the past two decades by IDF-MC care providers. Rittblat et al. [7] further described the use of freeze-dried plasma, a blood component used in the prehospital arena and administered via intraosseous vascular access.

The IDF-MC is a continuously changing organization emphasizing the adoption of advanced technologies and devices. Chen et al. [8] presented a blinded study on the use of point-of-care ultrasound and remote telementored ultrasound by inexperienced operators, and Sorkin et al. [9] described the BladeShield 101: a novel device for the battlefield designed to continuously measure vital signs and medical treatment provided and to transfer data through roles of care.

In this special issue of IMAJ, authors also discusse gender-related aspects at the core of medical treatment. Segal et al. [10] examined whether missed injuries were related to the medical provider's gender, while Gelikas et al. [11] assessed whether treatment with analgesia was associated with casualty gender in the military prehospital trauma setting

Over the past two and a half years, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant part of our lives. During these years, medical systems and teams throughout Israel and around the world struggled to adapt to this new disease and save lives fighting the pandemic. Geva et al. [12] and Shental et al. [13] discussed the impact of COVID-19 on the IDF medical system, lessons learned during the outbreak, and effects of different diseases during these times on medical treatment provided by the IDF to soldiers.

Gil A. Geva MD, Maya Nitecki MD, Itay Ketko MSc, Itay Toledo BSc, Sagi A. Shpitzer MD, Avi Benov MD MHA, Noam Fink MD, and Ariel Furer MD MBA

Background: To mitigate the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), national guidelines, in accordance with international health authorities, mandated 14 days of quarantine for every close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 patient. Although health benefits are obvious, consequences are profound, especially for organizations required to maintain operational preparedness.

Objectives: To present the Israel Defense Force (IDF) experience with outbreaks regarding quarantined individuals. To weigh the consequences of quarantined individuals needed for workforce and operation.

Methods: All positive COVID-19 cases in the IDF, as measured by a positive rRT-PCR test result, between 29 February and 18 May 2020 were evaluated. Numbers of positive individuals, quarantined individuals, and confirmatory exams conducted were collected. We compared the events in four units with the largest outbreaks and assessed the impact of confirmed cases, tests conducted, and workforce loss due to quarantine.

Results: Of the 187 soldiers who tested positive for COVID-19, source of infection was traced to 140 soldiers (75%). Almost no medical treatment was delivered, and hospitalization was rare. We found a median of 15.2% (interquartile range 5.3–34) for decline in unit workforce due to quarantine measures. Maximum reduction reached 47% of the workforce in one unit.

Conclusions: Despite a relatively small number of confirmed cases, units underwent a substantial change in mode of operation due to the toll of quarantined individuals. In certain populations and organizations, perhaps a more liberal application of isolation and contact tracing is suitable due to the heavy economic burden and consequences in term of operational readiness.

Ronny Ben-Avi MD, Alex Sorkin MD, Roy Nadler MD, Avishai M. Tsur MD, Shaul Gelikas MD MBA, Jacob Chen MD MHA, and Avi Benov MD MHA; and Israel Trauma Group

Background: Chest trauma is among the most common types of trauma, corresponding to 10% of trauma patients admitted to hospitals. In the military setting, thoracic trauma was reported as a significant cause of death. With well-timed treatment, chest trauma is regarded as survivable. Emergency thoracotomy (ET) is considered when the patient with trauma to the chest needs immediate resuscitation. Survival rate is reported as low as 1% in some reports and 20% in others. The survival rate depends on injury mechanism, protocols for intervention, and other decompressive procedures.

Objectives: To determine parameters that may impact survival of ET.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study to compare prehospital and in-hospital data regarding ET in the emergency department (ED) versus the operating room (OR).

Results: Between 2009 and 2017, 6532 casualties presented to the ED; 1125 with trauma to the chest. Fifty-four of those with chest trauma underwent ET in the hospital (4.8%), 22 (41%) in the ED, and 32 (59%) in the OR. The overall mortality of the ET subgroup was 48%. With regard to thoracotomies, 19/22 of patients (86%) who underwent ET in the ED died compared to 2/28 in the OR (13%).

Conclusions: Utilizing ET after chest trauma with appropriate clinical indications, well-trained personnel, and prompt transportation poses a significant challenge, but may be associated with better survival than that reported previously with military casualties. Adoption of indications and timed allocation to the OR may improve outcomes with chest trauma casualties.

Shaul Gelikas MD MBA, Dotan Yaari MD MHA, Guy Avital MD, Or Bainhoren MD, and Avi Benov MD MHA

Background: Pain management is fundamental in the treatment of a trauma casualty. Adequate pain management is associated with decreased long-term morbidity and chronic pain. Nonetheless, pain is frequently not documented nor adequately treated in the prehospital setting, a phenomenon described as oligoanalgesia. Gender bias has been suggested as a risk factor for oligoanalgesia.

Objectives: To examine the association between casualty gender and pain management in the prehospital trauma setting.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of the Israel Defense Forces Trauma Registry between 2015 and 2020. Univariable analysis followed by multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between casualty gender and pain management. For adult patients for whom gender was known, pain scores were documented.

Results: A total of 1044 casualties were included in the study; 894 (85.6%) were male. Females and males differed in several demographic and injury characteristics, including age in years (mean 36 vs. 27.6, P value < 0.001) and injury mechanism (16%% vs. 34.5% penetrating injury, P value < 0.001). Female casualties were less likely to be treated for pain (odds ratio [OR] 0.708, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 0.5–1, P = 0.05). However, after adjustment for various factors, including pain severity, this association was insignificant (OR 0.748, 95%CI 0.46–1.23, P = 0.25).

Conclusions: In this prehospital study, gender bias in pain management was not apparent. As women’s role on the battlefield continues to increase, further studies regarding the role of

David Segal MD MPH, Nitzan Shakarchy-Kaminsky MD MSc, Yair Zloof MD, Tomer Talmy MD, Galina Shapiro MD PHD, Irina Radomislensky BSc, Avishai M. Tsur MD MHA, Shaul Gelikas MD MBA, Erez Karp MD MHA, and Avi Benov MD MHA; Israel Trauma Group

Background: Medical organizations worldwide aim for equity and diversity in the medical profession to improve care quality. Data on whether the caregiver gender affects outcomes in the prehospital setting are essential but scarce compared to available in-hospital studies.

Objective: To analyze the rates of missed injuries in the prehospital setting and determine whether these rates were associated with the gender of the on-field physician or paramedic.

Methods: A retrospective record review was conducted, which included trauma records documented in two trauma registries, the prehospital Israel Defense Forces-Trauma Registry (IDF-TR), and the in-hospital Israeli National Trauma Registry (INTR). Missed injuries were defined as injuries documented in the INTR but not in the IDF-TR. A multivariable regression analysis was performed to assess the association between provider’s gender and missed injuries.

Results: Of 490 casualties, 369 (75.3%) were treated by teams that included only male paramedics or physicians. In 386 (78.8%) cases, a physician was a part of the prehospital team. In all, 94 (19.2%) casualties sustained injuries that were missed by the prehospital medical team. Missed injuries were not associated with the gender of the paramedic or physician (odds ratio 1.242, 95% confidence interval 0.69–2.193).

Conclusions: No association was found between the gender of the medical provider in the prehospital setting and the rate of missed injuries. These results should encourage prehospital emergency medical systems to aim for a balanced and diverse caregiver population.

July 2016
Avivit Brener MD, Eran Mel MD, Shlomit Shalitin MD, Liora Lazar MD, Liat de Vries MD, Ariel Tenenbaum MD, Tal Oron MD, Alon Farfel MD, Moshe Phillip MD and Yael Lebenthal MD

Background: Patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) are exempt from conscript military service, but some volunteer for national service. 

Objectives: To evaluate the effect of national service (military or civil) on metabolic control and incidence of acute diabetes complications in young adults with T1D. 

Methods: Clinical and laboratory data of 145 T1D patients were retrieved from medical records. The cohort comprised 76 patients volunteering for national service and 69 non-volunteers. Outcome measures were HbA1c, body mass index-standard deviation scores (BMI-SDS), insulin dosage, and occurrence of severe hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). 

Results: Metabolic control was similar in volunteers and non-volunteers: mean HbA1c at various time points was: 7.83 ± 1.52% vs. 8.07% ± 1.63 one year before enlistment age, 7.89 ± 1.36% vs. 7.93 ± 1.42% at enlistment age, 7.81 ± 1.28% vs. 8.00 ± 1.22% one year thereafter, 7.68 ± 0.88% vs. 7.82 ± 1.33% two years thereafter, and 7.62 ± 0.80% vs. 7.79 ± 1.19% three years thereafter. There were no significant changes in HbA1c from baseline throughout follow-up. BMI and insulin requirements were similar and remained unchanged in volunteers and controls: mean BMI-SDS one year before enlistment age was 0.23 ± 0.83 vs. 0.29 ± 0.95, at enlistment age 0.19 ± 0.87 vs. 0.25 ± 0.98, one year thereafter 0.25 ± 0.82 vs. 0.20 ± 0.96, two years thereafter 0.10 ± 0.86 vs. 0.15 ± 0.94, and three years thereafter 0.20 ± 0.87 vs. 0.16 ± 0.96. Mean insulin dose in U/kg/day one year before enlistment age was 0.90 ± 0.23 vs. 0.90 ± 0.37, at enlistment age 0.90 ± 0.28 vs. 0.93 ± 0.33, one year thereafter 0.86 ± 0.24 vs. 0.95 ± 0.33, two years thereafter 0.86 ± 0.21 vs. 0.86 ± 0.29, and three years thereafter 0.87 ± 0.23 vs. 0.86 ± 0.28. There were no episodes of severe hypoglycemia or DKA in either group. 

Conclusions: Our data indicate that during voluntary national service young adults with T1D maintain metabolic control similar to that of non-volunteers. 


February 2011
Y. Plakht, A. Shiyovich, F. Lauthman, Y. Shoshan, D. Antonovitch, N. Waknine, T. Barabi and M. Sherf

Background: During military escalations emergency departments provide treatment both to victims of conflict-related injuries and to routine admissions. This requires special deployment by the hospitals to optimize utilization of resources.

Objectives: To evaluate “routine” visits to the ED[1] during Operation Cast Lead in Israel in 2008–2009.

Methods: We obtained data regarding routine visits to the ED at Soroka University Medical Center throughout OCL[2]. The visits one month before and after OCL and the corresponding periods one year previous served as controls.

Results: The mean number of daily visits throughout the study period (126 days) was 506 ± 80.9, which was significantly lower during OCL (443.5 ± 82) compared with the reference periods (P < 0.001). Compared to the reference periods, during OCL the relative rates were higher among Bedouins, visitors from the region closest to the Gaza Strip (< 30 km), patients transported to the ED by ambulance and patients of employment age; the rates were lower among children. No difference in the different periods was found in the rate of women patients, distance of residence from Beer Sheva, rate of patients referred to the ED by a community physician, and hour of arrival. The overall in-hospital admission rate increased during OCL, mainly in the internal medicine and the obstetric departments. There was no change in the number of in-hospital births during OCL; however, the rate of preterm labors (32–36 weeks) decreased by 41% (P = 0.013).

Conclusions: Throughout OCL the number of routine ED visits decreased significantly compared to the control periods. This finding could help to optimize the utilization of hospital resources during similar periods.


[1] ED = emergency department

[2] OCL = Operation Cast Lead

August 2010
A. Farfel, D. Hardoff, A. Afek and A. Ziv

Background: Simulation-based medical education has become a powerful tool in improving the quality of care provided by health professionals.

Objectives: To evaluate the effect of a simulated patient-based educational program for military recruitment center physicians on the quality of medical encounters with adolescent candidates for military service.

Methods: Twelve physicians participated in an educational intervention that included a one day SP[1]-based workshop, where simulations of eight typical candidates for military service were conducted. Assessment of the physicians' performance before and after the intervention was based on questionnaires filled by 697 and 508 military candidates respectively, upon completion of their medical examination by these physicians. The questionnaire explored health topics raised by the examining physician as well as the atmosphere during the encounter. The candidates were also asked whether they had omitted important medical information during the medical encounter.

Results: Pre- and post-intervention comparison revealed significant changes in the percentages of candidates who reported that they were asked questions related to psychosocial topics: school problems – 59.7% and 68.9% (P = 0.01), protected sex – 29.6% and 36.4% (P = 0.01), mood changes – 46.9% and 52.2% (P = 0.05) respectively. Physicians were perceived as being interested in the candidates by 68.2% of the candidates before the intervention and 77.5% after (P < 0.01). The percentage of candidates who reported omitting medical information decreased from 6.6% before the intervention to 2.4% after (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: A simulated patient-based educational program for military physicians improved the quality of physician-candidate encounters. Such programs may serve as an effective instrument for training physicians to communicate with adolescents.

[1] SP = simulated patient

September 2008
I. Grotto, S. Zarka, R. D. Balicer, M. Sherf, and J. Meyerovitch

Background: In view of the rising prevalence of obesity, the identification of young adult populations at risk is important for the formulation of intervention and prevention programs.

Objectives: To assess demographic and behavioral factors associated with an increase in body mass index in young healthy adults and to identify the incidence of overweight/obesity in this population.

Methods: Data on anthropometric measures, demographic characteristics, and health behaviors were collected retrospectively for a representative sample of young Israeli adults (11,391 men, 11,280 women) on their release from military service (age 20–22 years) between 1989 and 2003. The incidence of overweight (BMI[1] < 25-< 30 kg/m2), incidence of obesity (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2), and increase in BMI during military service were calculated.

Results: The average increase in BMI during military service was 1.11 kg/m2 in males and 1.08 kg/m2 in females. A greater increase was positively associated with low paternal education and smoking cessation, and negatively associated with high physical activity. Twelve percent of subjects with a normal BMI on recruitment became overweight, and 21.7% of overweight subjects became obese. On multivariate logistic regression analysis, a higher incidence of overweight was associated with low education level (in both the subject and his or her father) in both genders, and non-use of oral contraceptives and low level of physical activity in females.

Conclusions: BMI appears to increase significantly during early adulthood. Intervention programs should be targeted specifically at subjects with low education or who started smoking before age 18, and physical activity (especially among females) should be encouraged.

[1] BMI = body mass index

October 2007
G. Levy, L. Goldstein, A. Blachar, S. Apter, E. Barenboim, Y. Bar-Dayan, A. Shamis and E. Atar

A thorough medical inquiry is included in every aviation mishap investigation. While the gold standard of this investigation is a forensic pathology examination, numerous reports stress the important role of computed tomography in the postmortem evaluation of trauma victims. To characterize the findings identified by postmortem CT and compare its performance to conventional autopsy in victims of military aviation mishaps, we analyzed seven postmortem CT examinations. Musculoskeletal injuries accounted for 57.8% of traumatic findings, identified by postmortem CT. The most frequent findings were fractures of the rib (47%), skull (9.6%) and facial bones (8.6%). Abnormally located air accounted for 24% of findings, for which CT was superior (3.5% detected by autopsy, 100% by postmortem CT, P < 0.001).  The performance of autopsy in detecting injuries was superior (autopsy detected 85.8% of all injuries, postmortem CT detected 53.9%, P < 0.001), especially in the detection of superficial lesions (100% detected by autopsy, 10.5% by postmortem CT, P < 0.001) and solid organ injuries (100% by autopsy, 18.5% by postmortem CT, P < 0.001), and in the detection of musculoskeletal injuries (91.3% for autopsy, 90.3% for postmortem CT, P = not significant). Postmortem CT and autopsy have distinct performance profiles, and although the first cannot replace the latter it is a useful complementary examination.

December 2006
N. Hod, G. Fire, I. Cohen, M. Somekh and T. Horne
September 2005
D. Golan, M. Zagetzki and S. Vinker
Background: Acute respiratory viral infections are minor self-limited diseases. Studies have shown that patients with ARVI[1] can be treated as effectively by non-physician practitioners as by physicians.

Objectives: To examine whether a military medic, using a structured questionnaire and an algorithm, can appropriately triage patients to receive over-the-counter medications and refer more complicated cases to a physician.

Methods: The study group comprised 190 consecutive soldiers who presented to a military primary care clinic with symptoms of ARVI. Using a questionnaire, a medic recorded the patient's history and measured oral temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure. All patients were referred to a doctor. Physicians were “blind” to the medic’s anamnesis and to the algorithm diagnosis. We compared the medic’s anamnesis and therapeutic decisions to those of the doctors.

Results: Patients were young (21.1 ± 3.7 years) and generally healthy (93% without background illness). They usually had a minor disease (64% without fever), which was mostly diagnosed as viral ARVI (83% of cases). Ninety-nine percent were also examined by a physician. According to the patients' data, the medics showed high overall agreement with the doctors (83–97.9%). The proposed algorithm could have saved 37% of referrals to physicians, with a sensitivity of 95.2%. Had the medics been allowed to examine the pharynx for an exudate, the sensitivity might have been 97.6%.

Conclusions: Medics, equipped with a questionnaire and algorithm but without special training and without performing a physical examination, can appropriately triage patients and thereby reduce the number of referrals to physicians.


[1] ARVI = acute respiratory viral infection

August 2005
I. Klaz, Y. Wohl, N. Nathansohn, N. Yerushalmi, S. Sharvit, I. Kochba and S. Brenner
 Background: The Israel Defense Forces implemented a pilot teledermatology service in primary clinics.

Objectives: To assess user satisfaction and clinical short-term effectiveness of a computerized store and forward teledermatology service in urban and rural units.

Methods: A multi-center, prospective, uncontrolled, cohort pilot trial was conducted for a period of 6 months. Primary care physicians referred patients to a board-certified dermatologist using text email accompanied by digital photographs. Diagnosis, therapy and management were sent back to the referring PCP[1]. Patients were asked to evaluate the level of the CSAFTD[2] service, effect of the service on accessibility to dermatologists, respect for privacy, availability of drugs, health improvement and overall satisfaction. PCPs assessed the quality of the teledermatology consultations they received, the contribution to their knowledge, and their overall satisfaction.

Results: Tele-diagnosis alone was possible for 95% (n=413) of 435 CSAFTD referrals; 22% (n=95) of referrals also required face-to-face consultation. Satisfaction with CSAFTD was high among patients in both rural and urban clinics, with significantly higher scores in rural units. Rural patients rated the level of service, accessibility and overall satisfaction higher than did urban patients. PCPs were satisfied with the quality of the service and its contribution to their knowledge. Rural physicians rated level of service and overall satisfaction higher than the urban physicians. Tele-referrals were completed more efficiently than referral for face-to-face appointments.

Conclusions: CSAFTD provided efficient, high quality medical service to rural and urban military clinics in the IDF[3].


[1] PCP = primary care physician

[2] CSAFTD = computerized store and forward teledermatology

[3] IDF = Israel Defense Force

March 2005
E. Zimlichman, D. Mandel, F.B. Mimouni, S. Vinker, I. Kochba, Y. Kreiss and A. Lahad
Background: The health system of the medical corps of the Israel Defense Force is based primarily upon primary healthcare. In recent years, health management organizations have considered the primary care physician responsible for assessing the overall health needs of the patient and, accordingly, introduced the term “gatekeeper.”

Objectives: To describe and analyze how PCPs[1] in the IDF[2] view their roles as primary care providers and to characterize how they perceive the quality of the medical care that they provide.

Methods: We conducted a survey using a questionnaire that was mailed or faxed to a representative sample of PCPs. The questionnaire included demographic background, professional background, statements on self-perception issues, and ranking of roles as a PCP in the IDF.

Results: Statements concerning commitment to the patient were ranked higher than statements concerning commitment to the military organization. Most physicians perceive the quality of the medical care service that they provide as high; they also stated that they do not receive adequate continuous medical education.

Conclusions: Our survey shows that PCPs in the IDF, like civilian family physicians, perceive their primary obligation as serving the needs of their patients but are yet to take on the full role of “gatekeepers” in the IDF’s healthcare system. We conclude that the Medical Corps should implement appropriate steps to ensure that PCPs are prepared to take on a more prominent role as “gatekeepers” and providers of high quality primary medical care.


[1] PCP = primary care physician

[2] IDF = Israel Defense Force

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