Land mines have maimed thousands and been condemned in 162 countries, but new research shows they have been supplanted by a far more dangerous explosive device.

Scientists compared the injuries from both land mines and what are known as improvised explosive devices (IEDs). They found these newer devices, which are often perceived as crude or primitive, are actually sophisticated and highly destructive. Overall, the research team found that IEDs cause much more serious injuries and are more likely to result in amputations than land mines.

“The injury pattern suffered by the survivors of the IED is markedly worse than that of conventional [land mines],” said the study authors, led by Dr. Shane Smith, of University of Western Ontario in Canada.

To come to that conclusion, the researchers analyzed injuries sustained by 100 people during IED attacks in Afghanistan over the course of 18 months in 2010. These injuries were compared to injuries sustained by those who encountered land mines.

All of the victims were boys or men, ranging in age from 6 to 44. All of the patients were treated at a NATO medical unit in Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan.

Of the IED victims, 19 percent died from their injuries. Of those, 11 died on arrival at the trauma center and eight died in the hospital. IED victims were more likely to have multiple amputations than land mine victims. Out of 100 IED patients, 70 of those who were injured by an IED lost more than one limb.

IEDs also resulted in roughly twice as many injuries to the genitals and buttocks. Pelvic fractures were also more common among the IED victims, the researchers found.

The injuries sustained from an IED attack included the amputation of both legs as well as an arm or hand, and serious damage to soft tissues and deep penetration of bacteria-laden soil. They were also nearly four times more likely to be fatal than land mine injuries, the study showed.

The findings were published Aug. 23 in the BMJ.

“It is hoped that reports regarding the pattern of injury caused by the modern IED will result in an abhorrence of this weapon and those that use it,” the researchers said in a journal news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on blast and explosion injuries.