Volume 48, Issue 6 (November 2003)
Meningitis Following Gunshot Wound of the Neck
It is generally assumed that a missile fired from a gun is subjected to sufficient heat to render it sterilized (1,2). For this reason, retained bullets are not usually considered a source of infection. The infectious complications associated with gunshot wounds are typically attributed to perforation of a hollow viscus with leakage of gastrointestinal contents causing peritonitis or intra-abdominal abscess. There are several reports of bacterial meningitis involving the spinal cord in gunshot wounds that perforate the intestine prior to involving the thoracic or lumbar vertebral column (3–6); however, there are no published reports of cerebral meningitis resulting from a retained projectile in the spinal canal in which there was no injury to the gastrointestinal tract. This manuscript describes a woman who died as a result of unsuspected acute bacterial meningitis which developed secondary to a gunshot wound of the neck. The projectile fractured the first thoracic vertebra, lacerated the dura and contused the spinal cord at the C7-T1 junction. Meningitis developed at the C7-T1 level and ascended along the cervical spinal cord to the brain. The infection caused acute neurologic deterioration and death four days following the initial injury.