Fifteen years' experience with penetrating trauma to the head and neck in children

J Pediatr Surg. 1987 Jan;22(1):24-7. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3468(87)80008-8.


To determine the extent and consequences of penetrating trauma to the head and neck in children, as well as the safety and efficacy of selective management of penetrating wounds of the face and neck, we reviewed our experience with these injuries since 1970. During this interval, 45 children aged 2 to 17 years were admitted for treatment of 37 missile wounds (MW) and eight stab wounds (SW). Most patients reached the hospital within 30 minutes of injury. The greatest single number of these injuries were due to accidents; violent crimes accounted for the remainder of injuries in which a motive for attack was known. Craniotomy was performed in neurologically viable patients only; neck exploration was reserved for those patients who presented with profuse hemorrhage, an expanding or pulsatile hematoma, respiratory distress, or violation of the esophagus, trachea, or great vessels seen on fluoroscopy, endoscopy, or angiography. Overall survival was 87% (MW 84%, SW 100%). Three of the nonsurvivors presented in extremis with gunshot (GSW) wounds to the head, and died shortly thereafter, while two who presented with similar injuries survived craniotomy but died subsequently from irreversible brain damage; one presented in shock due to massive hemorrhage (internal jugular vein transection flush with the base of the skull) and exsanguinated during attempted repair. Among the 39 survivors, 15 sustained multiple wounds, but only two presented in shock, due in both instances to tension pneumothorax. Soft tissue injuries of the scalp, face, and neck accounted for 36 of the 39 nonfatal wounds; five of these involved major cervical structures, but only four required immediate exploration.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / complications
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / etiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neck / pathology
  • Neck / surgery
  • Neck Injuries*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Wounds, Penetrating* / complications
  • Wounds, Penetrating* / etiology
  • Wounds, Penetrating* / surgery