Objective: To define the clinical characteristics of gunshot injuries across the truncal midline (transaxial injuries).
Design: A retrospective case-control study
Materials and methods: Analysis of a consecutive series of 223 patients with gunshot injuries to the torso treated at one trauma center. Sixty-three patients with transaxial injuries were compared to 148 patients with unilateral bullet trajectories.
Main results: The incidence of cardiac (8%), vascular (17%), and spinal (29%) injuries and the mortality rate (29%) were significantly higher among the 63 patients with transaxial injuries compared with 148 patients with unilateral injuries. Initial operative access to the wrong visceral cavity (10%), missed injuries (14%), and early reoperations (19%) were also more common in the transaxial group.
Conclusions: A transaxial bullet trajectory identifies a distinct injury pattern associated with a high incidence of major visceral damage, intraoperative misadventures, and very high mortality.