Traumatic Cerebrovascular Injuries Associated with Gunshot Wounds to the Head: A Single-Institution Ten-Year Experience

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Background: Cerebrovascular injury (CVI) is a potentially devastating complication of gunshot wounds to the head (GSWH), with yet unclear incidence and prognostic implications. Few studies have also attempted to define CVI risk factors and their role in patient outcomes. We aimed to describe 10 years of CVI from GSWH and characterize these injury patterns. Methods: Single-institution data from 2009 to 2019 were queried to identify patients presenting with dural-penetrating GSWH. Patient records were reviewed for GSWH characteristics, CVI patterns, management, and follow-up. Results: Overall, 63 of 297 patients with GSWH underwent computed tomography angiography (CTA) with 44.4% showing CVI. The middle cerebral artery (22.2%), dural venous sinuses (15.9%), and internal carotid artery (14.3%) were most frequently injured. Arterial occlusion was the most prominent injury type (22.2%) followed by sinus thrombosis (15.9%). One fifth of patients underwent delayed repeat CTA, with 20.1% showing new/previously unrecognized CVI. Bihemispheric bullet tracts were associated with CVI occurrence (P = 0.001) and mortality (P = 0.034). Dissection injuries (P = 0.013), injuries to the vertebrobasilar system (P = 0.036), or the presence of ≥2 concurrent CVIs (P = 0.024) were associated with increased risk of mortality. Of patients with CVI on initial CTA, 30% died within the first 24 hours. Conclusions: CVI was found in 44.4% of patients who underwent CTA. Dissection and vertebrobasilar injuries are associated with the highest mortality. CTA should be considered in any potentially survivable GSWH. Longitudinal study with consistent CTA use is necessary to determine the true prevalence of CVI and optimize the use of imaging modalities.