The management of gunshot wounds to the face

James Dolin, Thomas Scalea, Louis Mannor, Salvatore Sclafani, Stanley Trooskin

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72 Scopus citations


Treatment principles for penetrating neck trauma are well described yet few exist for facial injuries. To help delineate these issues, we viewed our recent experience with gunshot wounds to the face. Since 1986 we have treated 100 patients with such injuries. Their mean age was 28.9 years (range, 12-77 years). There were 89 male patients and 11 female patients. Ninety-six patients were considered stable on initial examination. Yet 35 patients required urgent airway control in the ED; only two needed a surgical airway. Emergency angiography was performed in 37 patients; 19 vascular injuries were identified. Eleven required therapy for vascular injuries, five by neck exploration and six by embolization. In 15 patients the trajectory suggested an intracranial injury, i.e., across the base of the skull. Although 14 of 16 patients were awake and alert at examination, head CT scans demonstrated serious intracranial pathologic processes in 9 patients. Sixty-seven patients sustained bony injury, 19 patients a significant nonvascular soft-tissue injury, and 38 patients a significant neurologic injury (26 peripheral, one spinal and 20 cerebral injuries). Ultimately, 44% of all patients required some surgical treatment and 25% had a complication from their injury. Six patients died, three of CNS injury, one of exsanguination, and two of sepsis. The bony, soft tissue, nervous, and vascular anatomy make the management of gunshot wounds to the face challenging. Although initially stable, many patients require early airway control and urgent work-up for vascular and intracranial injuries. Early subspecialty input is helpful in delineating the often complex injury pattern and planning an optimal management strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)508-515
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Trauma - Injury, Infection and Critical Care
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1992
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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