Lead toxicity risks in gunshot victims

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BACKGROUND Gunshot wounds require surgeons to decide whether to remove or leave bullet fragments in the body. Surgeons also decide how to follow up with patients who have lead fragments retained in their body. Current literature recommends to remove only intra-articular fragments without the need for a follow-up for patients with the metal retained. Therefore, this study investigates chronic lead toxicity for gunshot wounds. METHODS The study was performed in the metropolitan area of Rio de Janeiro/Brazil, between 2013 and 2015. It was a case-control study that included 45 victims of gunshot lesions with metallic fragments retained for more than 6 months. The 45 controls were matched for gender, age, and race. We compared the lead blood levels and frequency of symptoms. RESULTS The control group had average blood lead levels of 2.17 μg/dL (95% Confidence Interval [CI]; 1.71-2.63) and median 2.1 μg/dL. The case group had average values of 9.01 μg/dL (CI; 6.07-11.96) and median values of 6.5 μg/dL with p-values < = 0.001. The case group reported the following more frequently: irritancy, bad mood, headache, memory losses, daylight drowsiness, myalgia, weakness, abdominal pain, joint pain, trembling, tingling limbs. There was statistical significance for the differences of symptoms frequencies and for odds ratio between groups. CONCLUSIONS Although the mean lead levels found were lower than the current laboratory references, low levels have been associated with both rising morbidity and mortality. The WHO stated: "There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe". In conclusion, this work showed that bullets retained in the body are not innocuous. There are impacts in the blood lead levels and symptoms related to it, even with few fragments, extra-articular located or existing with low blood lead levels.




De Araújo, G. C. S., Mourão, N. T., Pinheiro, I. N., Xavier, A. R., & Gameiro, V. S. (2015). Lead toxicity risks in gunshot victims. PLoS ONE, 10(10). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0140220

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