Management of migrating intracranial bullets: Lessons learned from surviving an AK-47 bullet through the lateral brainstem

Richard A. Rammo, Michael V. Defazio, M. Ross Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Survival after a gunshot wound (GSW) to the head is becoming more common, with an accompanying increase in spontaneous migration of these intracranial bullet fragments. This phenomenon is well described in current literature and is a potentially life-threatening delayed complication of GSW to the head. Methods: We present the case of a 17-year-old boy who survived a penetrating GSW to the cranium and cerebellum after an accident involving an AK (Automatic Kalashnikov)-47 (7.62 mm). Results: Following initial attempts to remove the bullet and associated hematoma from the cerebellar hemisphere, intraoperative fluoroscopy revealed that the bullet had migrated to lie within the right middle cerebellar peduncle with the development of intraoperative cardiac arrhythmia. The bullet could not be retrieved without risk of damage to the superior and inferior cerebellar arteries. The patient then developed bacterial meningitis, and further imaging revealed the bullet had again migrated under the cerebellar cortex to an accessible location. The infection was treated with aggressive antibiotic therapy and the bullet was removed from the posterior fossa, thus preventing recurrence of infection and further migration. The patient regained full motor, speech, and proprioceptive function within months after injury. Conclusion: The potential for spontaneous migration exists with any penetrating brain injury involving a retained foreign body. When a retained intracranial foreign body is unable to be safely extracted during initial debridement, close clinical evaluation is essential and plain-film or computed tomographic imaging should be considered in order to enhance the early detection of delayed-onset life-threatening deterioration, such as meningitis and occlusion of cerebrospinal fluid drainage, because of spontaneous migration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)591.e19-591.e24
JournalWorld neurosurgery
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Bullet
  • Foreign-body
  • Gunshot wound
  • Intracranial
  • Migration
  • Missile
  • Penetrating brain injury
  • Spontaneous movement
  • Traumatic brain injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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