Radiologists must play central role in battling gun violence, expert argues

With so many gunshot victims requiring some type of imaging, radiologists can play a “pivotal” role in addressing this epidemic of violence, including building a database to better track violence’s aftermath.

That’s one of the key messages delivered this week by Corbin Pomeranz, MD, a Thomas Jefferson University researcher, who’s presenting at RSNA’s annual meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5. He and colleagues recently studied gunshot injury data from 110 emergency department patients treated in the Philadelphia area and found some striking patterns.

Notably, those who were treated for gunshot injuries to the chest or abdomen were more likely to be readmitted to the hospital. By building an imaging database for such treatment, radiologists might be able to help better predict and prevent adverse outcomes down the line for gunshot victims, Pomeranz and colleagues believe.

“My key takeaway is that radiology can help with clinical research that may not be as obvious as once thought. A lot of people do not associate gunshot wounds with radiology, but we actually get the most inbound referrals of any specialty,” Pomeranz, a radiology resident at the university’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College, said during a press briefing on Tuesday. "The data is there, we’re just going to have to think outside of the box on how to help people and contribute to the science on this.”

Pomeranz and colleagues made their discovery through a retrospective analysis of patients treated for gunshots at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s ED in Philadelphia during the first four months of 2018. They found that the vast majority of victims were men (92%), with an average age of 49.7.

They also noted that neurologic injuries were most common among the study population, affecting 24 patients, with abdominal and chest wounds afflicting another nine. Complications from the initial gunshot forced the hospital to eventually readmit 18 patients, with three requiring surgery.

The study was limited by its small sample size, but the team is now working to gather data on a larger regional population from multiple institutions. Pomeranz also hopes to include further details, including if fragments were left in the victim. He urges radiologists and other clinicians to look beyond just the initial treatment at the ED.  

“The acute gunshot events that we keep seeing in the media are terrible, but they’re really just the tip of the iceberg,” Pomeranz said at the briefing.