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Penetrating thoracic injury from a bean bag round complicated by development of post-operative empyema.


Bean bag guns were developed as a nonlethal means for law enforcement personnel to subdue individuals. The large surface area and lower velocities of the bean bag round theoretically result in transfer of most of the energy to the skin/subcutaneous tissue and minimize the likelihood of dermal penetration, thereby 'stunning' intended victims without causing injury to deeper structures. However, this technology has been associated with significant intra-abdominal and intrathoracic injuries, skin penetration and death. We present a 59-year-old man who sustained a penetrating thoracic injury from a bean bag gun. Although the bean bag was successfully removed, the patient developed a postoperative empyema requiring operative management. We discuss the unique aspects of thoracic trauma from bean bag ballistics as well as considerations in management of patients with this uncommon mechanism of injury.

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