Gunshot Wounds & Traumatic Brain Injury

Written by Kristin Huntoon, PhD, DO, Ohio State University Neurological Surgery

GSW is the shorthand for gunshot wound. Sadly, this shorthand does not begin to relate or sum up what is in store for the gun violence patient or their family — unlike a disease, its course is not well understood. In my word of neurosurgery, mortality and morbidity caused by GSWs are all too familiar despite extensive surgery and treatment, with many GSW victims dying before arriving at the hospital. For victims who survive the initial gun violence trauma, about 50 percent die in the emergency room.

Gunshot wounds to the head have become the leading or second leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in many urban areas in the U.S. due in part to a surge in gang violence and overall homicide rates. Other cases involve suicide and unintentional accidents. Twelve percent of all TBI are attributed to firearms; in people ages 25-34, firearms are a leading cause of TBI. Gunshot wound head trauma is the cause of an estimated 35 percent of all deaths attributed to TBI.

Despite all the numbers, little has been done to change gun violence-related policies. The National Physician Alliance is working to bring this gun violence debate and matter of public safety to the forefront. More information about NPA’s gun violence prevention work and physician perspectives on the toll of GSWs on patients and families can be found in NPA’s latest GVP Action Alert.