To describe the current literature regarding long-term physical, mental, and social outcomes of firearm injury survivors in the United States.
We systematically searched the PubMed/MEDLINE and Embase databases for articles published from 2013 to 2019 that involved survivors of acute physical traumatic injury aged 18 or older and reported health outcomes between 6 months and 10 years postinjury. Out of 747 articles identified, seven reported outcomes on United States-based civilian patients whose mechanism of injury involved firearms. We extended our publication date criteria from 1995 to 2020 and expanded the search strategy to include medical subject headings terms specific for firearm injury outcomes. Ultimately, ten articles met inclusion criteria.
When studied, a significant proportion of patients surviving firearm injury screened positive for posttraumatic stress disorder (49%–60%) or were readmitted (13%–26%) within 6 months postinjury. Most studies reported worse long-term outcomes for firearm injury survivors when compared both to similarly injured motor vehicle collision survivors and to the United States general population, including increased chronic pain, new functional limitations, and reduced physical health composite scores. Studies also reported high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder, reduced mental health composite scores, lower employment and return to work rates, poor social functioning, increased alcohol, and substance abuse.
Research on the long-term health impact of firearm injury is scant, and heterogeneity in available studies limits the ability to fully characterize the outcomes among these patients. A better understanding of the long-term health impact of firearm injury would support systematic change in policy and patient care to improve outcomes.