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Civilian Gunshot Wounds to the Spinal Cord and Cauda Equina.

Benzel, Edward C. M.D.; Hadden, Theresa A. R.N., C.N.R.N.; Coleman, James Edward M.D.
Neurosurgery: February 1987
Clinical observations and notes: PDF Only

: We evaluated 42 patients with neurological deficits after civilian gunshot wounds to the spine. Thirty-five of these patients (the study population presented here) received their initial and follow-up care at Louisiana State University Medical Center in Shreveport over a 4-year period. Each patient had incurred a single gunshot wound to the spinal cord or cauda equina with an accompanying neurological deficit. The patient population was divided into three groups. Group 1 patients had incurred a complete motor and sensory loss below the injury (20 patients (57%)). Group 2 patients had incurred incomplete spinal cord injuries (9 patients (26%)), whereas Group 3 patients had cauda equina injuries (6 patients (17%)). Myelography was performed for all Group 2 and 3 patients as well as Group 1 patients in whom the trajectory of the bullet did not explain a higher level of neurological injury (3 patients (15%)). A decompressive operation was performed in the patients whose myelography showed neural compression. Three patients in Group 1 (15%), 5 patients in Group 2 (56%), and 5 Group 3 patients (83%) underwent operation. All 3 Group 1 patients who underwent operation had some improvement of nerve root function postoperatively. All operated Group 2 and 3 patients had improvement of myelopathic or radicular function postoperatively. All began improving within several days of operation, implying a cause and effect relationship. None of the 17 nonoperated Group 1 patients improved neurologically, whereas 3 of the 4 nonoperated Group 2 patients improved. The single nonoperated Group 3 patient improved neurologically. It is concluded that patients with incomplete neurological injuries after civilian gunshot wounds to the spine can expect radicular or myelopathic improvement. Decompressive operation is indicated in selected cases with unexpected radicular injuries or incomplete myelopathic injuries with myelographic evidence of neural compression. A stepwise improvement in neurological function over that expected without operation should be realized in these cases. (Neurosurgery 20:281-285, 1987)

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