Expedited treatment of lower extremity gunshot wounds

J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Dec;209(6):740-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2009.09.010.


Background: Patients with isolated lower extremity gunshot wounds are currently admitted for observation and often undergo angiography. We hypothesized that if such patients have a normal ankle-brachial index (ABI), they can be discharged safely from the emergency department without invasive imaging or admission.

Study design: We retrospectively reviewed the records of hemodynamically stable patients with isolated lower extremity gunshot wounds seen at our urban, university-based trauma center and who were discharged from the emergency department. Evaluation consisted of determining which patients were hemodynamically normal, had no fractures, and had an ABI > or =0.9. Patients with an ABI <0.9 underwent CT angiography. We then applied this practice algorithm prospectively, adding evaluation of high probability proximity wounds by ultrasonography or CT angiography to rule out missed injuries.

Results: The retrospective review identified 182 patients who met our criteria. None had bleeding, limb ischemia, or limb loss. The specificity of the evaluation in the retrospective study to predict safe discharge was 100%, with a negative predictive value of 98%. There were 90 patients in the prospective study. Bleeding, limb ischemia, or limb loss did not develop in any patient. The prospective algorithm for predicting safe discharge home had a 100% positive predictive value and 98% negative predictive value. Using this algorithm, costs were 992 dollars per patient. If every patient received ultrasonography or CT angiography, it would have been 1,135 dollars or 4,632 dollars, respectively, per patient.

Conclusions: Hemodynamically normal patients with lower extremity gunshot wounds without fracture and an initial ABI > or =0.9 can be discharged safely from the emergency department without additional diagnostic imaging, potentially saving health care costs.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Angiography
  • Ankle Brachial Index
  • Blood Vessels / injuries
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity / injuries*
  • Lower Extremity / surgery*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Wounds, Gunshot / complications
  • Wounds, Gunshot / therapy*