Retrospective cohort study of patients from the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC).
The aim was to compare the outcomes of patients with gunshot-induced spinal injuries (GSIs) treated operatively and nonoperatively.
The treatment of neurological deficits associated with gunshot wounds to the spine has been controversial. Treatment has varied widely, ranging from nonoperative to aggressive surgery.
Patient demographics, clinical information, and outcomes were extracted. Surgical intervention was defined as a “laminectomy, neural canal restoration, open reduction, spinal fusion, or internal fixation of the spine.” The primary outcome was the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale. Statistical comparisons of baseline demographics and neurological outcomes between operative and nonoperative cohorts were performed.
In total, 961 patients with GSI and at least 1-year follow-up were identified from 1975 to 2015. The majority of patients were Black/African American (55.6%), male (89.7%), and 15-29 years old (73.8%). Of those treated surgically (19.7% of all patients), 34.2% had improvement in their ASIA Impairment Scale score at 1 year, compared with 20.6% treated nonoperatively. Overall, surgery was associated with a 2.0 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.4-2.8] times greater likelihood of ASIA Impairment Scale improvement at 1 year. Specifically, benefit was seen in thoracic (odds ratio: 2.5; 95% CI: 1.4-4.6) and lumbar injuries (odds ratio: 1.7; 95% CI: 1.1-3.1), but not cervical injuries.
While surgical indications are always determined on an individualized basis, in our review of GSIs, surgical intervention was associated with a greater likelihood of neurological recovery. Specifically, patients with thoracic and lumbar GSIs had a 2.5 and 1.7-times greater likelihood of improvement in their ASIA Impairment Scale score 1 year after injury, respectively, if they underwent surgical intervention.

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