Background: Explosion injuries to the upper extremity have specific clinical characteristics that differ from injuries due to other mechanisms.
Objectives: To evaluate the upper extremity injury pattern of attacks on civilian targets, comparing bomb explosion injuries to gunshot injuries and their functional recovery using standard outcome measures.
Methods: Of 157 patients admitted to the hospital between 2000 and 2004, 72 (46%) sustained explosion injuries and 85 (54%) gunshot injuries. The trauma registry files were reviewed and the patients completed the Disabilities of Arm, Shoulder and Hand Questionnaire (DASH) and Short Form-12 (SF-12) after a minimum period of 1 year.
Results: Of the 157 patients, 72 (46%) had blast injuries and 85 (54%) had shooting injuries. The blast casualties had higher Injury Severity Scores (47% over a score of 16 vs. 22%, P = 0.02) and higher percent of patients treated in intensive care units (47% vs. 28%, P = 0.02). Although the Abbreviated Injury Scale score of the upper extremity injury was similar in the two groups, the blast casualties were found to have more bilateral and complex soft tissue injuries and were treated surgically more often. No difference was found in the SF-12 or DASH scores between the groups at follow up.
Conclusions: The casualties with upper extremity blast injuries were more severely injured and sustained more bilateral and complex soft tissue injuries to the upper extremity. However, the rating of the local injury to the isolated limb is similar, as was the subjective functional recovery.