Conflict wounds are a devastating reality for the 6,000 members of the British Armed Forces seriously injured in recent conflicts. These brave servicemen and women have returned to civilian life with significant physical and mental scarring.

Combat injuries like blast injuries, burns, shrapnel wounds, and limb loss all cause scarring, which impacts quality of life. Itching, loss of function, and pain are common. And research by King’s College London has shown that armed forces personnel injured in combat are 67% more likely to report feelings of depression, anxiety, and PTSD (KCL)

Conflict wounds also affect people outside of the armed forces. As the weapons of war change, more and more civilians are caught in the crossfire. Explosive weapons, like artillery shells and bombs, are hugely destructive - when these are used in populated areas, around 90% of those killed or injured are civilians. (INEW)

And it’s not just military personnel or civilians in living in conflict areas at risk of combat wounds. From 2011 to 2021, over 500 people in the UK were injured in terrorist incidents (Global Terrorism Database)

Future conflicts are expected to take place in unpredictable, potentially austere, and heavily contested spaces and involve more lengthy evacuations. The emergence of new weapons will likely result in more burns casualties – in addition to the gunshot and blast injuries we see in combat today.

Our Research

The Scar Free Foundation’s work on conflict wounds is pioneering and life changing.

In 2018, The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research was opened in Birmingham. This world-class research centre has a one focus – reduce the physical and psychological impact of scarring among servicemen and women and those injured in terrorist attacks.

The support from the Armed Forces community for the Centre has been overwhelming. We have a long-standing partnership with the CASEVAC Club - a members-only club for those seriously wounded in combat during recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These veterans continue to serve by contributing to studies and sharing their experiences with researchers. Their stories, and the stories of other veterans, help guide our research strategy. You can read more about the CASEVAC Club and their mission here: CASEVAC Club.

The Centre is based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, home of the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine. It was opened in November 2018 by the Foundation's Patron, Her Royal Highness Duchess of Edinburgh.

It was funded by The Chancellor using LIBOR funds. The £3 million grant was the largest announced in the final round of LIBOR funding. An extra £1.5 million was added by the Foundation’s partners, including the Ana Leaf Foundation and JP Moulton Charitable Foundation.

What we've done

So far, we have:

- Created tailored support materials for veterans with visible differences as a result of injuries in combat. Healthcare providers can use these resources to better support veterans’ mental health (UNITS: Understanding Needs & Interventions for the Treatment of Scarring)

- Promoted and improved a web app called ‘Revenite,’ designed to help veterans track rehabilitation and fitness (REVENITE)

- Progressed the development of an innovative new material that can be used in bandages. The material has unique properties – it does not get wet from blood, meaning it can slow blood loss and prevent infection (Novel haemostatic bandage)

What we want to do

Two research projects are currently underway at The Scar Free Foundation Centre for Conflict Wound Research, DeScar and SMOOTH.

Our Conflict Wound research priorities are:

1. Acute Wound Care and Diagnosis: we want to find new ways to assess wounds, mitigate infections, and develop new treatments

2. The Biology of Scarring: we want to develop our understanding of the wound micro-biome. We also want to understand the long-term effects of serious injuries, like accelerated aging and the influence of psychology on biology.

3. Life-Long Scarring Impacts, Revision & Rehabilitation: we want to ensure the best psychosocial outcomes for military personnel with appearance-altering injuries by growing our understanding of the lifelong impacts of limb amputation and prosthetic use.