Objective. To describe the epidemiology of air gun injuries to children that required hospitalization.

Design. A consecutive series of children with air gun injuries.

Setting. Urban pediatric teaching hospitals in Cincinnati, OH; Kansas City, MO; and Seattle, WA.

Methods. A retrospective chart review.

Results. A total of 101 children were studied: 81% were male; 80% were white, 18% were black, and 2% were other races. The median age was 10.9 years (range, 0.5 to 18.8). Victims were most commonly shot by a friend (30%) or sibling (21%). A total of 34% occurred at the victim's home, and 36% occurred at the home of a friend or relative. Although 71% of shootings were unintentional, 5% were assaults, and 1% were suicides.

The median hospital stay was 3 days (range, 1 to 17 days). Fifteen children (15%) required treatment in intensive care. A total of 56% required at least one surgical procedure. Forty-nine had injuries to the head, including 38 with injuries to the eye, 10 with intracranial injuries, and 1 with a skull injury. Fourteen children were shot in the neck; 15 were shot in the chest, with 2 patients sustaining lacerations of the pericardium and 1 having a right ventricular foreign body. Another child had a laceration of the innominate artery. Nineteen had abdominal injuries, including laceration of the stomach (N = 3), small bowel (N = 4), colon (N = 2), and liver (N = 3).

Three of 10 children with intracranial injuries died. Two had long-term neurologic deficits. Of children with eye injuries, 25 (66%) had permanent visual loss and 15 (39%) of these were blind.

Conclusion. Air guns are associated with serious and fatal injuries. Families should be counseled that air guns may cause serious injuries and even death. Furthermore, pediatric care givers should advocate for increased regulation of air guns and expansion of safety standards.

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