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'This happens, we go to work' - trauma surgeon at Boston hospital

Eight patients are currently in a critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital.

EIGHT PATIENTS REMAIN in a critical condition at Massachusetts General Hospital tonight, according to the Emergency Department’s trauma surgeon.

Dr Peter Fagenholz told reporters that of the 29 marathon patients being treated at the medical centre, eight are “seriously ill”. Many will require follow-up and serial operations over the coming days, he said.

The most common injury suffered by people in the two explosions that rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon are “combined lower extremity injuries, combined meaning bone injuries, soft tissue injuries and vascular injuries”.

Surgical staff at the hospital, which has seen the majority of seriously injured patients from the attack, have carried out a number of operations, including several amputations.

Dr Fagenholz said he performed operations on six victims of today’s blast. According to the trauma surgeon, many of the injured were spectators and not runners. The oldest victim is 71 years old.

Injuries also include shattered ear drums and shrapnel wounds. He said it was not clear to medical staff if the metal debris found in patients is a result of intentionally-place metal or if it was material from the environment  involved in the blast.

Answering questions from reporters, the doctor said it was “too early to say how everyone is going to do”.

They are not looking OK, because that is not what critical means, unfortunately.

“It’s just depressing,” he said. “We take care of accidents all the time, it’s just depressing it is intentional.”

Describing the injuries seen at the emergency department, Dr Fagenholz said, “Any traumatic amputation is a gruesome injury – but we do see it in daily life. This is work, this happens, we go to work.”

The surgeon praised the hospital’s staff, many of whom returned to the city “within hours” despite days off. He said the wards and operating rooms had “as much people power” as they could.

“Within the hospital, people rose to the occasion,” he added.

Management has said that its blood supply is currently sufficient but they asked the public not to forget their offers of donations in the coming weeks when it will need replenishing.

Concluding the press briefing, Dr Fagenholz confirmed, “I started performing surgeries at 8am and, pretty much hadn’t stopped until coming to talk to you. Now I have to return.”

More than 130 others were injured in the attack and have been treated at area hospitals. The death toll has risen to three, local authorities confirmed. Citing two law enforcement sources, the Boston Globe said an eight-year-old was among the deceased.

Many of the victims are minors and Boston Children’s Hospital confirmed it is treating 10 patients from the race line.

According to Reuters journalist Edith Honan, the injury list includes leg traumas, fractures and two head injuries to a 14-year-old and a two-year-old.

At Boston Medical Centre, 16 patients have been described as having “serious” injuries.

Updated: So far no reports of Irish caught up in marathon blasts

Read more coverage of the Boston Marathon explosions>

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