Extremity gunshot injuries treated in an urban children’s hospital

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In the years 1985 to 1989 75 children and adolescents presented to an urban children’s hospital for treatment of 76 incidents of extremity gunshot wounds. Although the population ranged widely, the “typical” patient was a preteen or teenager (n=70) who was shot in the lower extremity (n=53) with a low velocity handgun (n=74). No vascular injuries and only two transient nerve injuries accompanied the wounds. Only 30% of the shots caused fractures. Many (43%) of the patients had other relevant psychosocial or medical problems. Previous treatment for other gunshot wounds or trauma had occurred in 27 patients. Although follow-up was not good, no consequent infections were identified. Outpatient local wound irrigation with minimal debridement sufficed as treatment for entry/exit wounds without contamination or fracture. Intravenous antibiotics are necessary in these wounds only for short-term prophylactic coverage of fractures. Larger soft tissue wounds, intraarticular foreign bodies, and fracture stabilization require operative treatment.

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