Mechanism matters: A 10-year experience of ballistic injuries of the upper extremity

Amelia C. Van Handel, Kevin G. Shim, Danielle J. Brown, Rachael M. Payne, Damini Tandon, David Chi, Adam G. Evans, Mitchell A. Pet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Upper Extremity gunshot wounds represent a significant strain on community and hospital resources, and reports of their epidemiology are varied. We hypothesized that demographic and socioeconomic variables would be associated with variable injury patterns and management, and that two distinct populations would be affected by upper extremity ballistic injury based on violent versus accidental, self-inflicted mechanism. Materials & methods: Retrospective review of all adult patients sustaining ballistic injury to the upper extremity at a single urban Level I trauma center over 10 years (n = 797). Demographic, injury pattern, treatment, and outcomes data were collected. Comparisons between groups were conducted with unpaired t-tests and chi-square testing where appropriate. Results: Most patients were male (89.1%) and mean age was 30.1 years (18-83). Violence accounted for 89.1% of injuries. Black individuals were disproportionately affected at 87% of patients. Shoulder injuries were most common (34%), and wrist least common (7%). Demographics and injury pattern varied significantly between patients sustaining violent injury and those with self-inflicted mechanisms. Patients sustaining violent injury were most often young, Black men more likely to be injured proximally, whereas patients with self-inflicted injuries were more likely to be older, Caucasian men with more comorbidities injured distally. Cumulatively, 35.3% of patients required operative intervention. Distal injuries were more likely operative. The most commonly injured structure across all levels was bone (53%), and 54.3% of fractures required operation. Median follow-up was 24.5 months. Complication rate was 13.6%. Conclusions: Gunshot wounds of the upper extremity create complex patterns of injury which vary based on level of injury and mechanism. Violent and self-inflicted injuries occur in dissimilar populations and result in distinctive injury patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110755
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • Ballistic injury
  • Epidemiology
  • Gun violence
  • Gunshot wound


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