Gun violence in the United States rose continuously from 2010 to 2022, spiking during the pandemic, and peaking in 2021 at 48,830 deaths (14.8 per 100,000). Previous reports investigated health and financial burden associated with gunshot wounds (GSWs) during 2004 to 2013; however estimates related specifically to head and neck (H&N) injuries have been lacking. This population-based study aims to examine incidence, morbidity, mortality, and health resource utilization of H&N injuries utilizing the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database.
A population-based study was undertaken using the National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample (NIS) database (2015Q4–2017Q4). The International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10) codes were used to create a composite variable (inclusive of brain, eye, facial nerve, and facial fractures) resulting from GSW to the H&N. Incidence per 100,000 hospitalizations and case fatality rates were calculated to determine the health burden of H&N injuries. Length of hospital stay, and inflation- adjusted hospital charges were compared among H&N and non-H&N injuries. Χ2 (classical and bootstrapped) and Mann-Whitney tests were used to compare groups.
Of 101,300 injuries caused by firearms, 16,140 injuries (15.9%) involved H&N region. The average incidence of H&N injuries was 20.1 cases per 100,000 hospitalizations, with intentional injuries having the highest case fatality rates of 32.4%. Patients with H&N injuries had extreme loss of function (33.4% versus 18.3%, P<0.001) and extreme likelihood of mortality (27.0% versus 11.3%, P<0.001) than non-H&N injuries. Statistically significant differences in the median length of stay (4.8 d versus 3.7 d; P<0.001) and median inflation-adjusted hospital charges ($80,743 versus $58,946, P<0.001) were found among H&N and non-H&N injuries.
Injuries due to GSW remain an inordinate health care and financial burden, with trauma to the H&N carrying an especially high cost in dollars, morbidity, and mortality.