Airway status in civilian maxillofacial gunshot Injuries in Johannesburg, South Africa

  • P Tsakiris
  • P E Cleaton-Jones
  • M A Lownie


Background. Airway management of the maxillofacial gunshot injury constitutes a critical decision and an area that requires review in the context of civilian injuries. Most of our knowledge is extrapolated from military experience, which constitutes a different trauma patient group. This paper reports a retrospective survey of airway status in relation to maxillofacial gunshot injuries. The objective is to correlate clinical findings with treatment decisions.

 Methods. A survey was done of 11 622 archived maxillofacial surgery records (1987- 1992) in the three academic hospitals in Johannesburg.

 Results. There were 211 maxillofacial gunshot injuries, for which 92 patient records had sufficient detail for inclusion in the analysis. The typical patient was a black male aged 20 – 29 years, shot with a low-velocity bullet of 0.38 calibre, admitted to hospital the day of the injury, operated on within 4 days, and discharged 4 days later. The airway was threatened in 20/92 cases at admission; 12/20 cases were treated with oro-or nasotracheal intubation, and 9/12 later had elective tracheostomies; 8/20 needed immediate surgical airways, 5 tracheostomies and 3 cricothyroidotomies (all later converted to tracheostomies). Three of thirty-seven patients with normal airways on admission later required emergency tracheostomy.

Conclusions. An abnormal airway was significantly more likely after a high-velocity injury, and when the tongue, floor of mouth, midline or bilateral facial skeletal bones were involved.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135