Treatment of Complex Below-the-Elbow Gunshot Wounds

Rodrigues, R. L., Sammer, D. M., & Chung, K. C. (2006). Treatment of complex below-the-elbow gunshot wounds. Annals of plastic surgery, 56(2), 122-127.


Firearm injuries, many of which involve the hand, wrist, or forearm, pose a serious public health concern in the United States in both medical and economic terms. Despite the preponderance of low-velocity weapons, complex below-the-elbow gunshot injuries are commonly seen. A successful approach to these patients requires efficient treatment and early initiation of rehabilitation. Unfortunately, this goal is often not met because of multiple factors including wound infections, the need to coordinate multiple surgical specialties, long hospital stays, and delayed definitive reconstruction. At our institution, the plastic surgery hand service is able to treat all aspects of below-the-elbow trauma. A protocol of early aggressive debridement and skeletal stabilization, with definitive reconstruction within 1 week of injury, is used. We retrospectively reviewed all complex below-the-elbow gunshot injuries treated by the senior author between 1996 and 2003. Eighteen such patients were identified. All limbs were salvaged and all patients regained functional use of the extremity. There was no incidence of wound infection. The average length of inpatient stay was 8.9 days (median, 7 days). The use of this protocol by a single surgical specialty allows efficient reconstruction, short hospital stays, and early initiation of rehabilitation.