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High-pressure injection injuries to the upper extremity: a review of the literature.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this review was to identify the relative impact of injected material, location of injury, time to debridement, injection pressure, infection, and the use of adjuvant steroid medication upon the need for amputation after high-pressure injection injuries to the upper extremity.

DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION: A Medline literature search extending from 1966 to December 2003 was performed, referencing the key words "high-pressure injection injury," "grease gun injury," "paint gun injury," "pressure gun injury," and "high-pressure injection." The results were limited to the English language and to reports involving human subjects. Each abstract was reviewed to confirm that the described injury had occurred in the upper extremity and that it had truly been a high-pressure injection. The reference pages from each of the papers were reviewed to identify additional reports of high-pressure injection injury. Manuscripts describing injuries resulting from hand held syringes or other low-pressure mechanisms were excluded.

DATA EXTRACTION: All of the manuscripts were analyzed to identify the clinical outcome, age, hand dominance, site of injection, substance injected, injection pressure, elapsed time to wide debridement, use of steroids, and incidence of infection. These variables were subjected to a Pearson chi test to determine their impact upon the need for amputation.

RESULTS: Four hundred thirty-five cases of high-pressure injection injury to the upper extremity were identified. The amputation rate after these injuries was 30%. The location of the injury and the material injected contributed significantly to the need for amputation. For injections of paint, paint thinner, gasoline, oil, or jet fuel (organic solvents), the amputation risk was lower if wide surgical debridement occurred within 6 hours of injury. Steroids did not impact the amputation rate or incidence of infection. The presence of infection did not affect the incidence of amputation.

CONCLUSIONS: The risk of amputation after high-pressure injection injury to the upper extremity is highest with organic solvent injection into the fingers. Injections into the thumb or palm result in a much lower frequency of tissue loss. Emergent surgical debridement reduces the amputation risk after injections of organic solvents. From the available data, no conclusions could be reached regarding functional outcomes, other than amputation, after high-pressure injection injury.

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