NEWS | May 29, 2008

Walter Reed ENT surgeons provide care for Hondurans during MEDRETE

By Tech. Sgt. John Asselin Joint Task Force-Bravo public affairs

A medical team from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C., was here May 17-28 performing specialized ear surgeries on 55 Hondurans at Hospital Leonardo Martinez V.

The visiting U.S. military surgeons and support staff, assisted by cadre from the Joint Task Force-Bravo Medical Element and Honduran surgeons and medical staff, were part of a readiness training mission which conducts surgical care for underprivileged people in Honduras while providing valuable training for U.S. military personnel.

The team, with their Honduran counterparts, screened 172 patients and selected 55 for surgery, said Dr. Guillermo Saenz, JTF-Bravo Medical Element liaison officer.

"Surgeries were performed on patients ranging from ages 10 through 60," he said. "Most surgeries were to eradicate infection and remove benign tumors caused by infection -- a condition that is rare in the United States."

"We see conditions like this at home, but maybe only one a month. We saw 10 in a row here," said Army Maj. (Dr.) Phil Littlefield, an ear, nose and throat surgeon from Walter Reed. "Also, since there is little antibiotic use here, the infections cause much more dense bone in the ear." An increased density in the bone would result in a decrease in hearing acuity, since the small bones in the ear would not vibrate as well together.

After surgery, patients spent the night at the hospital and were released the next day, with medication and post-operation care instructions. They will also have a follow-up appointment with a Honduran ENT doctor in about four weeks.

The team was also able to fit more than 80 patients for hearing aids. The fitting information will be taken back to Walter Reed and custom-fit hearing aids will be sent back to the patients in about a month.

The professional exchange between U.S. and Honduran doctors and nurses also allowed improvement in patient treatment and expanded the Honduran Ministry of Health capabilities to provide services.

"This is great support the U.S. military gives to the people in this area," said Dr. Richardo Hedman, an ENT physician at Hospital Leonardo Martinez V. "I only wish they could be here longer and do more."

The hospital is mostly outpatient and is a center for international aid. This MEDRETE is the only U.S. military MEDRETE scheduled for the hospital this year, but U.S. civilian doctors have surgeries scheduled throughout the year.