Surgery removes grenade from soldier’s head

In some operating rooms, the patient isn’t the only person whose life is on the line. Since World War II, surgeons have chronicled the removal of potentially explosive projectiles from dozens of wounded people. In the latest such case to be reported, Colombian military doctors extracted an intact grenade from the head of a teenage soldier.

ON PINS AND SCALPELS. An X-ray image of a soldier’s head and neck reveals the unexploded grenade against the skull. Reprinted with permission from Elsevier (Lancet, 2003, Vol. 362:2066)

The young man was accidentally shot in the left cheek during training in August 2001. X rays revealed a gun-launched, kiwi-size grenade lodged in the nasal area beneath the soldier’s skull.

To reduce risk to medical staff, doctors at the Central Military Hospital in Bogotá worked in protective suits and, whenever possible, occupied the operating theater one at a time. In a 4-hour procedure, surgeons Jorge Espinosa-Reyes and Camilo Fonnegra and their team removed the grenade through the man’s mouth, turned the grenade over to a weapons-disposal expert, and then tended to the patient’s wound and facial-bone fractures.

The man has since largely recovered, and only a minor scar is visible, the doctors report in the Dec. 20/27, 2003 Lancet.

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