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Nonmissile penetrating spinal injury

Case report and review of the literature

Kiarash Shahlaie, Dongwoo John Chang and John T. Anderson

✓ Nonmissile penetrating spinal injuries (NMPSIs) are rare, even among the population of patients treated in large trauma centers. Patients who present with retained foreign body fragments due to stabbings represent an even smaller subset of NMPSI, and their optimal management is unclear.

The authors report the case of a 42-year-old man who presented to the University of California at Davis Medical Center with a retained knife blade after suffering a stab wound to the lower thoracic spine. They discuss this case in the context of a literature review and propose management options for patients with NMPSIs in whom fragments are retained.

A search of PubMed was undertaken for articles published between 1950 and 2006; the authors found 21 case reports and eight case series in the English-language literature but discovered no published guidelines on the management of cases of NMPSI with retained fragments.

After clinicians undertake appropriate initial trauma evaluation and resuscitation, they should obtain plain x-ray films and computerized tomography scans to delineate the anatomical details of the retained foreign body in relation to the stab wound. Neurosurgical consultation should be undertaken in all patients with an NMPSI, whether or not foreign body fragments are present. Surgical removal of a retained foreign body is generally recommended in these patients because the fragments may lead to a worse neurological outcome. Perioperative antibiotic therapy may be beneficial, but the result depends on the nature of the penetrating agent. There is no documentation in the literature to support the use of steroid agents in patients with NMPSIs.