Internal Carotid Artery Gunshot Wounds

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To review a series of patients who sustained internal carotid artery (ICA) gunshot wounds.

Design, Materials, and Methods

We retrospectively studied the demographics and clinical presentation, angiographic findings, methods of treatment, and outcome of 38 consecutive patients who had ICA injury identified by angiography.


Thirty-four of 38 patients were symptomatic with neck hematomas (32 patients), active hemorrhage (12 patients), and/or neurologic deficit (10 patients). Angiography showed active bleeding in 22 patients and occlusion in 16 patients. Twelve patients were treated operatively by ligation (seven patients), repair (four patients), or intracranial/extracranial bypass (one patient). Twenty-six patients were managed nonoperatively either by angioplasty (one patient), embolotherapy (17 patients), or observation alone (eight patients). Percutaneous balloon catheters were also used in three patients for vascular control of the ICA before operative repair or as a method of assessing intracranial collateral circulation. The mortality of 18.4% was largely related to strokes.


Penetration of the ICA is a very severe injury with a high mortality. The major cause of death in this series was related to neurologic damage associated with carotid injury and shock. However, neurologic deficit among the survivors was uncommon and often resulted from emboli. Interventional radiology can play an important role in the management of these wounds and often obviates the need for operative exploration.

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