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Clinical complications of surviving gunshot wounds to the head in children and adolescents: the Miami experience

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Abstract

Background

Gunshot wounds (GSWs) to the head in the pediatric population are both rare and devastating, with the clinical course of pediatric survivors poorly understood. Correspondingly, the aim of this study was to summarize the clinical complications clinicians can expect of survivors of GSW to the head in children and adolescents in hospital and after discharge.

Methods

A retrospective review of our Level 1 trauma center database between 2011 and 2021 was performed. Clinical data was extracted for those patients aged ≤ 18 years old who survived initial hospitalization with at least one documented follow-up. Categorical data were then compared using Chi-squared test.

Results

A total of 19 pediatric survivors of GSW to the head satisfied all selection criteria with an average age was 15.3 years. The majority of cases were isolated head injuries (63%), with an average Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) of 11.9. Bullet trajectory was intraparenchymal in 11 (58%) cases and extraparenchymal in 8 (42%) cases, with 15 (79%) patients treated by surgical intervention. A total of 13 (68%) patients experienced a complication during their hospitalization, with the most common being sympathetic hypertension and endocrinologic salt wasting, each occurring in 5 (26%) patients. With respect to complication categories, the intraparenchymal patients experienced statistically more complications than extraparenchymal patients that were infectious (54% vs 0%, P = 0.01) and sympathetic (45% vs 0%, P = 0.03) in nature. However, with respect to overall neurologic (P = 0.24), endocrinologic (P = 0.24), and traumatic (P = 0.24) complications, their incidences were statistically comparable. All patients were successfully discharged on average post-injury day 22 with an average GCS of 14.0. Mean follow-up for the cohort was 42.6 months, with an average GCS of 14.3. A total of 6 (32%) patients experienced a complication relatable to their initial GSW injury after discharge. The most common individual complication was new-onset seizures in 3 (16%) patients.

Conclusions

Survivors of pediatric GSW to the head can experience multi-systemic complications during both initial hospitalization and afterwards, and bullet trajectory involving the parenchyma may be associated with specific complications more than others. Dedicated inpatient management and outpatient follow-up involving surveillance for complications across all systems, not just neurological, are recommended to ensure patients receive the best care possible.

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Correspondence to Victor M. Lu.

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Lu, V.M., Kreuger, E., Cordeiro, J.G. et al. Clinical complications of surviving gunshot wounds to the head in children and adolescents: the Miami experience. Childs Nerv Syst 38, 1735–1742 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-022-05558-9

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00381-022-05558-9

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