Analysis of septic morbidity following gunshot wounds to the colon: the missile is an adjuvant for abscess

J Trauma. 1991 Aug;31(8):1088-94; discussion 1094-5.


Over a 7-year period, 151 patients with gunshot wounds to the colon surviving beyond 24 hours were managed. The bullet was retained in the body in 66% and exited in 34%. Thirty-four (23%) developed major septic complications (diffuse peritonitis, 21%; intraperitoneal abscesses 24%; and extraperitoneal abdominal abscesses, 56%). The septic complication rate was 26% in the bullet-present group compared with 16% in the remainder (p less than 0.15). The increased septic rate in those with bullets present was the result of abscesses developing around the retained missile. That group with missile abscesses had a lesser degree of injury as measured by the abdominal trauma index compared with the other patients with septic complications (p less than 0.001). Fifteen (79%) of the 19 patients with missile and missile track abscesses had them develop in the psoas muscle. These abscesses occur by fecal contamination of the muscle following inoculation by the bullet, which passes through the large bowel. Computed tomography-guided and operative drainage tend to fail if the foreign body is not removed. Computed tomography-guided or operative drainage should be successful in draining missile track abscesses when the bullet has exited the patient.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Muscles* / diagnostic imaging
  • Abscess / diagnostic imaging
  • Abscess / etiology*
  • Colon / diagnostic imaging
  • Colon / injuries*
  • Foreign Bodies / complications*
  • Humans
  • Peritoneal Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Peritoneal Diseases / etiology*
  • Peritonitis / etiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wounds, Gunshot / complications*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / diagnostic imaging