Treatment Strategies in the Management of Maxillofacial Ballistic Injuries in Low-Intensity Conflict Scenarios
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The facial disfigurement and functional debility resulting from craniomaxillofacial injuries in low-intensity conflict scenarios can physically and psychologically traumatize the afflicted personnel. Efficient and definitive management, with complete esthetic restoration and functional rehabilitation, is not only an organizational obligation, but also a tactical necessity to maintain a high state of morale among the troops. There exist two schools of thought on principles of management of such injuries. The older, three-phased approach consists of initial debridement and suturing, followed by conservative closed reduction in maxillofacial fractures using splints and ligatures, thereafter followed by delayed repair and late reconstruction of residual bone defects and deformities after the soft tissue healing is complete. The newer trend involves early and aggressive open surgical reduction and craniomaxillofacial fixation techniques along with reconstructive procedures carried out hand in hand with the soft tissue debridement and closure.
The aim was to compare the efficacy of the two management protocols, namely the contemporary approach of early aggressive surgical intervention, versus the conservative approach of initial debridement, closed reduction and delayed repair, as the definitive treatment modality of maxillofacial injuries sustained in low-intensity conflicts.
This retrospective analytical study included 40 patients with maxillofacial injuries sustained in combat scenarios treated over a period of 3 years. These patients who had been treated for ballistic maxillofacial injuries were divided into two groups: The first group of 20 patients (Group 1) included those who had undergone an early, aggressive, surgical intervention, and the second group of 20 patients (Group 2) included those who had undergone resuscitation and primary soft tissue closure followed by conservative, closed reduction techniques, delayed repair (including open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) procedures), and late reconstruction of bone soft tissue defects (which included utilization of various grafts and flaps). Both groups were evaluated and compared for postoperative recovery and early and late complications such as impaired esthetic results and impaired functional recovery.
Early, definitive, and aggressive maxillofacial surgical techniques proved superior to the conservative approach by bringing about primary bone healing and minimizing residual deformities and subsequent scar contractures, thus yielding improved functional as well as superior esthetic outcomes.
In today’s low-intensity conflict scenario, the emphasis in management of maxillofacial injury victims should be on an early, definitive, and aggressive surgical repair and reconstruction of the facial skeleton, thus restoring quality of life to these soldiers, sparing them life-long indignity after a potentially severe esthetically and functionally debilitating injury.
KeywordsLow-intensity conflicts (LIC) Gunshot wounds (GSWs) Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) Ballistic trauma Craniomaxillofacial injuries (CMFs) Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF)
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The author of this article has not received any research grant, remuneration, or speaker honorarium from any company or committee whatsoever, and neither owns any stock in any company. The author declares that she does not have any conflict of interest.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
All procedures performed on the patients (human participants) involved were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution and/or national research committee, as well as with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments and comparable ethical standards.
This article does not contain any new studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.
Informed consent was obtained from all the individual participants in this study.
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