Care of Bullet-related Injuries: A Cross-sectional Study of Instructions and Prescriptions Provided on Discharge from the Emergency Department

Jane M. Hayes, L. J. Punch, Kristen L. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: There are more than 80,000 emergency department (ED) visits for non-fatal bullet- related injuries (BRI) per year in the United States. Approximately half of these patients are discharged home from the ED. Our objective in this study was to characterize the discharge instructions, prescriptions, and follow-up plans provided to patients discharged from the ED after BRI. Methods: This was a single-center, cross-sectional study of the first 100 consecutive patients who presented to an urban, academic, Level I trauma center ED with an acute BRI beginning on January 1, 2020. We queried the electronic health record for patient demographics, insurance status, cause of injury, hospital arrival and discharge timestamps, discharge prescriptions, and documented instructions regarding wound care, pain management, and follow-up plans. We analyzed data using descriptive statistics and chi-square tests. Results: During the study period, 100 patients presented to the ED with an acute firearm injury. Patients were predominantly young (median age 29, interquartile range 23-38 years), male (86%), Black (85%), non-Hispanic (98%), and uninsured (70%). We found that 12% of patients did not receive any type of written wound care instruction, while 37% received discharge paperwork that included instructions to take both an NSAID and acetaminophen. Fifty-one percent of patients received an opioid prescription, with a range from 3-42 tablets (median 10 tablets). The proportion of patients receiving an opioid prescription was significantly higher among White patients (77%) than among Black patients (47%). Conclusion: There is variability in prescriptions and instructions provided to survivors of bullet injuries upon ED discharge at our institution. Our data indicates that standardized discharge protocols could improve quality of care and equity in the treatment of patients who have survived a BRI. Current variable quality in discharge planning is an entry point for structural racism and disparity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-367
Number of pages5
JournalWestern Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


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