The continued evolution of military munitions and armor on the battlefield, as well as the insurgent use of improvised explosive devices, has led to embedded fragment wounds containing metal and metal mixtures whose long-term toxicologic and carcinogenic properties are not as yet known. Advances in medical care have greatly increased the survival from these types of injuries. Standard surgical guidelines suggest leaving embedded fragments in place, thus individuals may carry these retained metal fragments for the rest of their lives. Nursing professionals will be at the forefront in caring for these wounded individuals, both immediately after the trauma and during the healing and rehabilitation process. Therefore, an understanding of the potential health effects of embedded metal fragment wounds is essential. This review will explore the history of embedded fragment wounds, current research in the field, and Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs guidelines for the identification and long-term monitoring of individuals with embedded fragments.
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