Shotgun injuries are a relatively uncommon type of trauma, and therefore may present a challenge in management for trauma surgeons. This is particularly true in the case of surgeons unfamiliar with the unique characteristics of shotgun wounds and the mechanics of shotguns. In many cases, the shot pellets are the primary source of injury. However, a broad understanding of shotgun mechanics is important in recognizing alternative presentations. This article details a case of sabot (a stabilization device used with certain projectiles) retention after a close-range shotgun injury, reviews underlying shotgun mechanics, and discusses strategies for the detection and mitigation of these injuries. The aim of this case report is to increase awareness of and reduce the potential morbidity of close-range shotgun injuries.
A middle-aged female presented to the Emergency Department with wounds to her right hip and flank after suffering a shotgun injury. A contrast computed tomography scan demonstrated no evidence of hollow viscous or vascular injury, but was otherwise severely limited by scatter artifact from the numerous embedded pellets. The patient was admitted for wound care and discharged 2 days later with a clean wound bed and no evidence of tissue necrosis. Six days after injury, she reported an “unusual” smell associated with severe pain in her right hip wound. She was evaluated in clinic where examination revealed a retained foreign body, identified to be a shotgun shell sabot, which was removed in clinic. She presented again several days before scheduled follow-up with a persistent foul smell from her wound and was noted to have necrotic tissue at the base and margins of the wound that required hospital readmission for operative debridement and closure with negative pressure wound therapy. The patient had an uncomplicated recovery after surgical debridement.
Although shotgun sabot penetration and retention are rare, they are associated with significant morbidity. Sabot penetration should be considered if injury narrative, physical examination, or radiographic characteristics indicate a distance from shotgun to patient of less than 2 m. A high degree of suspicion is indicated at less than 1 m.