Background. Approximately 32 000 nonpowder firearm injuries are reported annually with more than 60% occurring in the pediatric population. Case reports of serious and fatal injuries have been described; however, no large inclusive series have been published. We reviewed an 11-year experience of an urban pediatric emergency department to evaluate the circumstances, spectrum of injuries, and outcomes attributable to nonpowder firearms.
Methods. A retrospective, descriptive case series of all children 18 years of age or younger evaluated at an urban children's hospital from January 1983 through December 1994 were eligible for study. Patients were identified using a computerized database, the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, and the trauma registry in the department of surgery. Medical records were reviewed to collect demographic information, circumstances of injury, anatomic site and type of injury, treatment, and outcomes for nonpowder firearm injuries.
Results. One hundred eighty patients were identified, and a complete data set was available for 166 (92%). The mean age was 12 ± 3.7 years, 24% of children were <10 years old, and 71% of the children were male. Three patients returned with a second nonpowder firearm injury during the study period. Forty-nine percent of injuries were intentional and 44% of all injuries occurred during the summer and early fall months. The most common sites of injury were the extremity/buttocks (39%), head and neck (33%), thorax (13%), and eye (8%). Serious injuries included intracranial hemorrhage, cardiac right ventricle laceration, hyphema, and abdominal visceral injury (liver laceration, pancreatic laceration, intestinal perforation). The majority of wounds required local wound care, and the children (74%) were discharged from the emergency department. Of the patients admitted to the hospital (27%), 45% required operative intervention. There were no deaths. Seven percent (12/166) of patients sustained some functional deficit with 42% (5/12) the result of an ocular injury.
Conclusion. The majority of nonpowder firearm injuries are minor; however, the potential for serious injury should not be underestimated. Minor injuries can be treated with local wound care and tetanus prophylaxis, and patients can be discharged from the emergency department. Education of parents and children to the potential risks associated with these weapons is essential. Stricter regulations regarding ownership of nonpowder firearms and mandatory safety instruction should be considered.
- Received January 16, 1997.
- Accepted May 14, 1997.
- Copyright © 1997 American Academy of Pediatrics