Gunshot injury to spine: An institutional experience of management and complications from a developing country

Document Type





Purpose: Gunshot wounds are the second leading cause of spinal cord injuries. Surgical intervention for gunshot injury to the spine carries a high rate of complications. There is a scarcity of data on civilian gunshot injuries to the spine in Pakistan. Approximately 60 cases over the last 10 years have been recoded, with unusual presentation and neurological recovery. Thus it is imperative to fill this gap in data, by reviewing cases of civilian gunshot injuries to spine presenting at a tertiary care hospital (Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi).
Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study. Patients of all ages who presented to the emergency department of Aga Khan University Hospital, with gunshot injuries to spine between January 2005 and December 2016 were included in the study. Data were collected on neurological status (assessed using American Spinal Injury Association Score), extent of cord transection, motor and sensory deficits. The patients were further grouped into those with cord transection, and those with fractures of the bony spine but an intact spinal cord. These patients were then followed and the outcomes were recorded.
Results: A total of 40 patients were identified. The mean ± SD of patients age was (30.9 ± 9.5) years. Of the 40 patients with gunshot wounds, 31 had the medical imaging performed at the facility, and hence they were included in this categorization. The remaining 9 patients were excluded from this additional grouping. Thirteen patients were managed surgically and 27 patients underwent the conservative management. American Spinal Injury Association score was used for the initial and follow-up neurological assessment. The mean ± SD of follow-up was (8.7 ± 7.2) months. In our study, the thoracic spine was the most commonly injured region in gunshot injuries. Of the 31 patients with medical imaging performed at our institute, 17 (54.8%) had cord transection, of whom 8 (47%) ultimately developed paraplegia.
Conclusion: The prognosis of gunshot injuries to the spine can be varied depending on whether the spinal cord is intact or transected. This will help healthcare providers to plan the further management of the patient and counsel them accordingly.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Chinese Journal of Traumatology