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Penetrating Trauma1

What is Sharp or Penetrating Trauma?

Sharp or penetrating trauma is any injury that is caused by a sharp object that penetrates and passes through the skin to the underlying tissue forming an open wound. The penetrating object may sometimes remain inside the tissue or organ. The depth of the penetrating wounds may vary from punctures in the superficial layers of skin to extending deep inside the body where injury to the organs can occur.

Causes of Penetrating Trauma

Penetrating trauma may be caused by:

  • Bullet injuries from gunshots
  • Stabbing injuries from knives and swords
  • Bite injuries 
  • Injuries from glass or iron pieces
  • Penetration by metal rods or wooden splinters 
  • Falling onto sharp objects

Symptoms Associated with Penetrating Trauma

The symptoms vary depending on the size and the velocity of the object that causes the penetrating trauma and may include:

  • Pain at the site of injury
  • Heavy or mild bleeding
  • Difficulty with movement due to fractured bones or damage to muscles
  • Low pulse rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness and vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blurred vision
  • Abnormal heartbeat

Diagnosis of Penetrating Trauma

A complete assessment of the severity of a penetrating injury can be difficult as there may be damage to the deep tissues and organs inside the body. Apart from a physical examination to establish the location of the penetrating injury and the damage to superficial tissues, the following diagnostic studies may be ordered.

  • X-Rays: They are performed to determine if there is an injury to bones. 
  • CT Scan: This study uses specialized X-ray equipment to identify damage to hard and soft tissues.
  • MRI Scan: This study uses radio waves to evaluate the condition of internal organs.
  • CT Angiography: This study detects injury to blood vessels.
  • Echocardiography: If the damage is to the heart is suspected, echocardiography may be carried to verify the proper functioning of the heart using ultrasound waves.
  • Blood Tests: They may be performed to detect the presence of any infection in the blood.

Treatment for Penetrating Trauma

The treatment for penetrating trauma would include:

  • Wound Cleaning: This is done to remove debris and foreign objects from the wound and superficial tissues. 
  • Preventing Blood Loss: This may be done by applying pressure gently with a bandage and the use of blood coagulating medication.
  • Supplementation of fluids: IV fluids and blood transfusions may be given to compensate for fluid and blood loss.
  • Surgery: Minimally invasive surgery, such as laparotomy for an abdominal penetrating trauma, may be performed if necessary to evaluate and repair damage to internal organs.

Prevention from Penetrating Trauma

Precautions to prevent penetrating trauma include:

  • Careful handling of sharp objects
  • Use of protective equipment (seatbelt, helmet) during sports or when driving 
  • Wearing shoes to avoid puncture wounds from stepping on sharp objects such as nails or broken glass
  • Undergoing proper training in the use of firearms 


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