Objective The aim of this study was to summarize outcomes and complications of gunshot fracture management in small animals.
Study Design Review of cats and dogs with radiographically confirmed acute gunshot fractures, presenting data on signalment, fracture location, fracture management (surgical vs. non-surgical, type of surgical repair), fracture comminution, extent of soft tissue trauma, postoperative complication and overall outcome. A poor outcome was defined as patient death, major postoperative complication or limb amputation (both as primary treatment or secondary to postoperative complications).
Results Ninety-seven animals with 137 acute gunshot-induced fractures were identified. There were 21 (15.3%) maxillofacial, 16 (11.7%) vertebral column, 8 (5.8%) rib, 56 (40.9%) distal long bone (below stifle/cubital joint) and 36 (26.3%) proximal long bone (at or above stifle/cubital joint) fractures. Overall, 20/37 cases with sufficient follow-up details incurred a poor fracture outcome. Extensive soft tissue trauma at the fracture site was associated with an increased likelihood of poor outcome. The most common poor outcomes were primary limb amputations (7 cases) and postoperative complications (3 osteomyelitis/surgical site infections, 4 delayed/non-unions).
Conclusions Gunshot fractures overall have high likelihood of poor outcome. Severe soft tissue injury is associated with complications. Mitigating poor outcome likely requires early aggressive wound management.