Surgical Treatment of Upper Extremity Gunshot Injures: An Updated Review

Anna Meade, Austin Hembd, Min Jeong Cho, Andrew Y. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


INTRODUCTION: Firearm morbidity and mortality have been increasing in recent years, and with this, the demand for medical personnel firearm injury treatment knowledge. Extremities contribute to a majority of firearm injuries, with these injuries being particularly complex because of neurovascular proximity within a confined space. Knowledge of firearm mechanism of injury and treatment management options is important for any trauma hand surgeon. Many factors play vital roles in the treatment of complex upper extremity (UE) gunshot wounds (GSWs). The aim of our review and case illustrations is to provide hand surgeons with an up-to-date guide for initial emergent management, soft tissue, bony, and nerve repair and reconstruction. PATIENT AND METHODS: A literature review was conducted in the current management of UE GSW injuries, and 2 specific patient case examples were included. High-energy versus low-energy GSWs were documented and compared, as well as containment injures. Management including soft tissue, bony, and nerve injuries was explored along with patient outcome. Based on these findings, guidelines for GSW management were purposed. CONCLUSION: Gunshot wounds of the UE encompass a group of highly heterogeneous injuries. High-energy wounds are more extensive, and concomitant injuries to bone, vessel, nerve, muscle, and soft tissue are common. Early treatment with adequate debridement, skeletal fixation, and soft tissue coverage is indicated for complex injuries, and antibiotic treatment in the pre-, peri-, and postoperative period is indicated for operative injuries. Soft tissue coverage options include the entire reconstructive ladder, with pattern of injury and considerations of wound characteristics dictating reconstructive choice. There are arguments to using either external or internal bony fixation techniques for bone fracture management, with choice tailored to the patient. For management of nerve injuries, we advocate earlier nerve repair and a shorter duration of observation before secondary reconstruction in selective cases. If transected nerve endings cannot be brought together, nerve autografts of shorter length are recommended to bridge nerve ending gaps. A significant number of patients with GSW fail to make necessary follow-up appointments, which adds to challenges in treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S312-S318
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number3S Suppl 1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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