The childhood air gun: serious injuries and surgical interventions

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1998 Jun;14(3):188-90. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199806000-00003.


Objective: Increasingly powerful nonpowder firearms or air guns are frequently given to children as toys. We undertook the present study to evaluate the injuries caused by these firearms, based on the concern that they are capable of inflicting serious trauma.

Design: Descriptive, retrospective chart review.

Setting: Urban level I pediatric trauma center.

Participants: The study included all children with injuries secondary to air guns who were admitted between July 1988 and March 1995.

Main outcome measures: Type of weapon, circumstances of injury, anatomic location of injury, injury severity, surgeries performed, morbidity.

Interventions: None.

Results: There were 42 admissions with a mean hospital stay of seven days (range 1 to 136 days). The average age was 10 years (range 1 to 23 years) with a median age of 11 years. There were 35 boys and 7 girls. Twenty-nine of the 42 injuries were caused by a family member or friend and five were self-inflicted. The mean injury severity score was 8.3. While there were no fatalities, 21 children (50%) underwent operative procedures for their injuries. Ten of the injuries were potentially lethal, of which seven were due to the "pump" action air gun. Sixteen patients had serious long-term disability as a result of their injuries.

Conclusion: Air guns can cause a variety of serious injuries, often requiring operative intervention. The long-term morbidity from some of these injuries is significant. Both parents and physicians should be aware that nonpowder guns are not toys, but weapons capable of inflicting serious trauma. The evaluation and treatment of air gun injuries should be similar to that currently used for powder weapon injuries. Recommendations for evaluation and treatment are made.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Air*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / classification
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / surgery
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thoracic Injuries / classification
  • Thoracic Injuries / etiology
  • Thoracic Injuries / surgery
  • United States
  • Wounds, Gunshot / classification
  • Wounds, Gunshot / etiology*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / surgery