An Algorithmic Approach to the Management of Ballistic Facial Trauma in the Civilian Population

J Craniofac Surg. 2018 Nov;29(8):2010-2016. doi: 10.1097/SCS.0000000000004741.


Annual incidence of non-fatal ballistic civilian has been increasing for the last decade. The aim of the present study was to clarify the optimal reconstructive management of civilian ballistic facial injuries. A systematic review of PubMed was performed. Articles were evaluated for defect type and site, reconstructive modality, complications, and outcomes. A total of 30 articles were included. Most common region of injury was mandibular with a 46.6% incidence rate. All-cause complication rate after reconstruction was 31.0%. About 13.3% of patients developed a postoperative infection. Gunshot wounds had overall lower complication rates as compared with shotgun wounds at 9.0% and 17.0%. By region, complications for gunshot wounds were 35% and 34% for mandible and maxilla, respectively. Immediate surgical intervention with conservative serial debridement is recommended. However, for patients with pre-existing psychiatric disorders, secondary revisions should be delayed until proper psychiatric stabilization. When there is extensive loss of soft tissue in the midface, aesthetic outcomes are achieved with a latissimus dorsi or anterolateral thigh free flap. Radial forearm flap is favored for thin lining defects. Open reduction is suggested for bony-tissue stabilization. The fibula flap is recommended for bony defects >5 cm in both midface and mandible. For bony defects, <5 cm bone grafting was preferred. Delaying bone grafting does not worsen patient outcomes. Surgical treatment of ballistic facial trauma requires thorough preparation and precise planning. An algorithm that summarizes the approach to the main decision points of surgical management and reconstruction after ballistic facial trauma has been presented in this study.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms*
  • Bone Transplantation
  • Facial Injuries / complications
  • Facial Injuries / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Mandibular Injuries / surgery
  • Maxilla / injuries
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / adverse effects
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Skin Transplantation
  • Superficial Back Muscles / transplantation
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Time Factors
  • Wounds, Gunshot / complications
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery*