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Vella MA, Warshauer A, Tortorello G, et al. Long-term Functional, Psychological, Emotional, and Social Outcomes in Survivors of Firearm Injuries. JAMA Surg. 2020;155(1):51–59. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2019.4533
What are the long-term physical, mental, emotional, and social outcomes among individuals with gunshot wounds?
In this cohort study of patient-reported outcome measures, 183 young adult patients (median age, 27 years) who survived gunshot wounds (median time from injury, 5.9 years) reported worse physical and mental health compared with the general population, 48.6% had positive screen findings for probable posttraumatic stress disorder, and unemployment and substance use increased by 14.3% and 13.2%, respectively, after injury.
These findings suggest that the outcomes of firearm injury reach far beyond mortality statistics; survivors of gunshot wounds may benefit from early identification and the initiation of long-term, multidisciplinary longitudinal care to improve recovery.
The outcomes of firearm injuries in the United States are devastating. Although firearm mortality and costs have been investigated, the long-term outcomes after surviving a gunshot wound (GSW) remain unstudied.
To determine the long-term functional, psychological, emotional, and social outcomes among survivors of firearm injuries.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This prospective cohort study assessed patient-reported outcomes among GSW survivors from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2017, at a single urban level I trauma center. Attempts were made to contact all adult patients (aged ≥18 years) discharged alive during the study period. A total of 3088 patients were identified; 516 (16.7%) who died during hospitalization and 45 (1.5%) who died after discharge were excluded. Telephone contact was made with 263 (10.4%) of the remaining patients, and 80 (30.4%) declined study participation. The final study sample consisted of 183 participants. Data were analyzed from June 1, 2018, through June 20, 2019.
A GSW sustained from January 1, 2008, through December 31, 2017.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Scores on 8 Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) instruments (Global Physical Health, Global Mental Health, Physical Function, Emotional Support, Ability to Participate in Social Roles and Activities, Pain Intensity, Alcohol Use, and Severity of Substance Use) and the Primary Care PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) Screen for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.
Of the 263 patients who survived a GSW and were contacted, 183 (69.6%) participated. Participants were more likely to be admitted to the hospital compared with those who declined (150 [82.0%] vs 54 [67.5%]; P = .01). Participants had a median time from GSW of 5.9 years (range, 4.7-8.1 years) and were primarily young (median age, 27 years [range, 21-36 years]), black (168 [91.8%]), male (169 [92.3%]), and employed before GSW (pre-GSW, 139 [76.0%]; post-GSW, 113 [62.1%]; decrease, 14.3%; P = .004). Combined alcohol and substance use increased by 13.2% (pre-GSW use, 56 [30.8%]; post-GSW use, 80 [44.0%]). Participants had mean (SD) scores below population norms (50 ) for Global Physical Health (45 ; P < .001), Global Mental Health (48 ; P = .03), and Physical Function (45 ; P < .001) PROMIS metrics. Eighty-nine participants (48.6%) had a positive screen for probable PTSD. Patients who required intensive care unit admission (n = 64) had worse mean (SD) Physical Function scores (42  vs 46 ; P = .045) than those not requiring the intensive care unit. Survivors no more than 5 years after injury had greater PTSD risk (38 of 63 [60.3%] vs 51 of 119 [42.9%]; P = .03) but better mean (SD) Global Physical Health scores (47  vs 43 ; P = .04) than those more than 5 years after injury.
Conclusions and Relevance
This study’s results suggest that the lasting effects of firearm injury reach far beyond mortality and economic burden. Survivors of GSWs may have negative outcomes for years after injury. These findings suggest that early identification and initiation of long-term longitudinal care is paramount.
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