Investigational Therapies for Gunshot Wounds to the Spine: A Narrative Review

Doruk Somuncu, Ariella Gartenberg, Woojin Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Study Design: This was a narrative review. Objective: The objective of this study was to review the standards of care and triage protocol for gunshot wounds to the spine, highlighting innovative future treatment options that may be implemented in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Summary of Background Data: With the increased availability of firearms among the United States population, gunshot wounds to the spine are becoming a clinically relevant and devastating issue. Such injuries result in severe and diverse complications. SCIs due to gunshot wounds are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality, as they often result in complete or incomplete paraplegia. Current standards of care focus on preventing further damage rather than total cure or treatment of SCI. Methods: A literature review was performed on the standards of care, triage protocol, associated conditions, current therapeutic options, and innovative treatment options for patients with gunshot wounds to the spine. Results: The general standards of care for spinal gunshot wounds involve maintaining or renewal of mechanical spinal steadiness and neurological activity while limiting complications of treatment. Current treatment options include management of mean arterial pressure goals, drug therapies consisting of antibiotics, and surgical approaches. With recent innovations in molecular biology and cell transplantation, potentially new and promising treatment options for patients with SCI exist. These options include cell transplantation therapies, platelet-rich plasma administration, exosomal treatments, and mitochondrial-targeted therapeutics. Stem cell transplantation is promising, as several clinical studies have been completed. However, loss-to-follow-up, lack of long-term evaluation, and questionable randomization has limited the use of stem cells in the standard of care practice. Although not studied on human models to a gunshot wound, exosomal and mitochondrial-based treatment options have been studied both in vitro and in animal models with SCI. Conclusion: Newly emerging molecular and cellular therapy modalities for SCI contribute to the recovery process and may be utilized in conjunction with the current modalities for better outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-240
Number of pages8
JournalClinical spine surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • current and investigational treatment
  • gunshot wounds
  • molecular therapies
  • spinal cord injury
  • spine
  • stem cell therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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