Is estimated bullet trajectory a reliable predictor of severe injury? Case report of a thoraco-abdominal gunshot with a protracted trajectory managed nonoperatively
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BMC Research Notes 2013, 6:63 doi:10.1186/1756-0500-6-63Published: 15 February 2013
Operative management of all gunshot’s traumas carries a high rate of unwarranted interventions that are known to cause serious complications. Selective nonoperative management is thus being increasingly practiced which has reduced these avoidable interventions. Physical examination and computed tomography scans are most sensitive in assessing need of laparotomy. Assessment of internal injuries on the basis of an estimated bullet trajectory is often practiced but has seldom been studied. We report a case of conservative management of a thoraco abdominal gun shot patient where an estimated bullet trajectory was indicative of serious injuries. To the best of our knowledge this is the first report of a thoraco abdominal gunshot that, despite of a protracted trajectory, had no sequelae and was thus managed nonoperatively.
A 30 year old male patient having height of 180 cm and weight of 70 kg (Body Mass Index 21.6) presented with complaint of a penetrating injury at left side of upper torso. The patient had no symptoms or obvious bleeding and was vitally stable. On examination a 1 cm × 1 cm entry wound at the left 3rd intercostal space in the mid clavicular line was identified. The chest and abdomen were otherwise unremarkable on examination. The chest radiograph displayed clear lung fields. The abdominal radiographs displayed a bullet in the upper left quadrant of the abdomen lateral to the spine. The bullets estimated trajectory from 3rd intercostal space and its lodgment in the abdomen lateral to the spine indicated severe visceral injury. The computed tomography scan showed that the bullet was lodged postero-medially to the left kidney. All thoracic, intra peritoneal and retroperitoneal visceral structures were identified to be normal. The patient remained clinically and vitally stable, hence was managed nonoperatively being discharged after 48 h of observation.
From this case we conclude that decision for managing gun shot patients should be based on objective clinical and diagnostic findings. We recommend further investigation of the predictability of estimated trajectory for visceral injuries and consequent operative intervention as we found it to be misleading in this case.