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Gunshot Wounds to the Face Not As Lethal As You Might Think

Photo by kcdsTM

Though shocking and disturbing, many gunshot wounds to the face are not as serious as they appear, Harvard surgery professor and trauma surgeon George Velmahos reminded an audience of trauma surgeons and nurses this morning.

Velmahos joined several other surgeons in giving quick lessons about surgical techniques or advancements as part of the Austin Trauma and Critical Care Conference at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on the University of Texas Campus.

In between surgeon-centered jokes, Velmahos showed provocative photos of patients with gunshot wounds to the face because he said he knew they would elicit a strong response.

He said treating trauma injuries is “a team sport” and involves close work with specialists.

“These injuries are high on the wow scale,” he said. “But because they are rarely a lethal injury they are much lower on the badness scale.”

He displayed a bar graph showing the “wow” to be at 9 out of ten, but the “badness” as only a 3 on the same scale.

What determines if a wound is fatal, Velmahos said, is brain injury, airway loss and bleeding.

He showed a series of photos of a gunshot wound victim who underwent a series of reconstructive and reparative surgeries. The patient had been shot through his face from the right eye to the lower left side of the jaw.

Velmahos explained some of the surgeries and said the patient “now looked like a normal human.”

“Gunshot wounds to the face may create a reaction,” Velmahos reiterated. “But they are rarely life threatening so be sure to keep your cool.”

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