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Outcomes from Firearm Related Brain Injuries

Categories: Firearm Related Brain Injury

The Question

What are the outcomes for persons with penetrating brain injury from a gunshot wound?

Past Studies

Past Studies associate firearm-related brain injuries with high death rates and poor outcomes for survivors. Persons at greatest risk for firearm-related brain injury or deaths have been determined to be young male African Americans. Assessments used in past studies may not have been the most sensitive in measuring subtle improvements in recovery.

This Study

This Study examined 442 persons who sustained intentional and unintentional gunshot wounds over a seven-year period. The data collection was expanded to account for persons who were discharged to a rehabilitation facility. Further assessments for this group included the Disability Rating Scale, Functional Independent Measure, and the Rancho Los Amigos Scale. Lengths of stay and hospital charges were also recorded for acute medical care and inpatient rehabilitation.

This study found that persons who received firearm related traumatic brain injury had very high initial death rates. Persons who survived and were able to participate in rehabilitation had good potential for functional improvements. As with past studies, young African- American males had the highest percentage of firearm-related traumatic brain injuries.

Who May Be Affected By These Findings 

Persons with brain injury, service providers, advocates, and funders.


The authors recognize that ethical controversies may arise in healthcare when allocating expensive, aggressive medical treatment. The authors state that the possible good outcomes for persons with firearm-related brain injuries should be considered.

Bottom Line

These authors agree with previous studies that the death rate is high for persons who sustain a severe brain injury from a gunshot wound. However, they found good functional improvement can be made by persons who survive and participate in inpatient rehabilitation. Many survivors can achieve functional levels necessary to return to the community. The authors suggest new outcome scales need to be developed that better evaluate functional levels and “quality of life”. The authors state that the bleak prognosis previously given to persons who survive penetrating brain injury needs to be re-evaluated.

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Find This Study

Zafonte, R. D.; Wood, D. L.; Harrison-Felix, C. L.; Valena, N. V.; & Black, K. (2001). Penetrating head injury: A prospective study of outcomes (23), 219-226.