A gunshot wound to the hand requires immediate care due to the importance of our hands in daily life. Even though most of the high-velocity gunshot wounds to the hand occur among those in the military, injury from low-velocity weapons can occur as well.
Although hand injuries from a gunshot wound might not always be life-threatening, they are challenging due to the important function of the hands.
Hand injuries from a gunshot wound
The complex anatomy of the hand can result to various degrees of damage. During a gunshot wound, the bullet crushes the tissues as it penetrates and causes further harm due to temporary cavitation. The impact of tissue damage might be direct if there is deformation and fragmentation of the bullet.
Hand injuries are likely to occur if the structures of the hand are directly struck by an intact bullet, fragments or secondary missiles. The skeletal muscles are elastic which is why they are less affected by the cavitation pressure unlike the tissues of the internal organs such as spleen, liver or brain.
Injuries from low-velocity weapons typically result to a localized wound. In such instances, there are injuries to the soft tissues and bones of the hand. The usual hand injuries from a gunshot wound involves fractures to the small bones of the hands, bone loss and instability, soft tissue injuries to the muscles, ligament and tendon damage and even injury to the nerve and blood vessels. The commonly affected bones include the metacarpal, phalanx, interphalangeal joint, carpal bones, metacarpophalangeal joint, radius and ulna.
A gunshot wound to the hand is assessed to identify possible injuries so that appropriate treatment can be started. An X-ray and other imaging tests might be considered to check for any damage to the bones and soft tissues.
Localized injuries from low-velocity weapons do not require surgery. Most of these wounds require cleansing and managed with irrigation, debridement and elevation of the affected hand. For cases that necessitate surgery, minor debridement is done. Antibiotics might be given to reduce the risk for infection.
More Information / Disclaimer
The information posted on this page on a gunshot wound to the hand is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage hand injuries from a gunshot wound by taking a standard first aid course with Vancouver First Aid.