Gunshot wounds to the head and neck in the pediatric population have became alarmingly common. They often result in death of the victim, devastate families, and inflict a considerable financial burden to hospitals and society. We present a retrospective study of cases treated at a level I trauma center in Houston, Texas, from July 1990 to July 1993. We identified 115 cases of gunshot wounds in children, 32 of which were exclusively confined to the head and neck region. There were 26 male and 6 female patients. Ages ranged from 3 to 17 years. The cranial cavity was involved in 13 cases, leading to 9 deaths and 1 institutionalization. The shootings took place at home in 11 cases, and they involved play in 12 cases. The shooter was known to 11 of the victims, and the wounds were self-inflicted in 7 cases. The most common type of weapon was the .22 caliber pistol, which caused four of the deaths. Two of our cases involved BB air rifles, one of which mandated a craniotomy for the evacuation of an epidural hematoma. Our findings indicate that gunshot wounds to head and neck in children are in most instances preventable and result in high fatality rates because of common intracranial involvement, even when low-energy missiles are used.
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