Comprehensive Treatment and Reconstructive Algorithm for Functional Restoration after Ballistic Facial Injury

Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2022 Jul 27;10(7):e4453. doi: 10.1097/GOX.0000000000004453. eCollection 2022 Jul.


Background: Ballistic facial injuries are rare, with most trauma centers reporting 1-20 cases annually. These patients present significant management challenges to reconstructive surgeons, not only due to their rarity but also due to the complex decision-making process that is involved. The aim of this study was to review our experience with the application of craniofacial microsurgery in management of facial gunshot wounds.

Methods: A retrospective review of a single-surgeon experience at a level I trauma center from 2011 to 2020 for patients sustaining self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the face requiring microsurgical reconstruction was performed. Outcomes included reconstructive techniques, free flap type and indication, airway evolution, feeding modality, respective timing of interventions, and complications.

Results: Between 2012 and 2021, 13 patients presented for microsurgical reconstruction at our institution for gunshot wounds to the face. The majority (90%) of patients were men, and the average age at time of injury was 26. The median from the time of injury to first free flap was 93 days. Thirteen patients represented 23 free flaps. On average, patients underwent a total of two free flaps. The most common microsurgical flap was the fibula flap (14) followed by the radial forearm flap (6).

Conclusions: Based on our findings, we describe a novel algorithm for function restoration and aesthetic revisions based on injury location. Underlying principles include avoiding early use of reconstruction plates, establishing occlusion early, and aligning bony segments using external fixation. An algorithmic approach to these injuries can improve outcomes.