To determine the value of imaging procedures such as computer tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head in providing additional information of forensic relevance, we examined 17 cadavers of human victims of gunshot wounds to the head. Three of the victims briefly survived the gunshot wound. The weapons involved were all guns with low muzzle energy (<550J), i.e., handguns and low-velocity rifles. In the majority of cases (n=15) a penetrating wound to the head was found, only two cases showed the bullet lodged in the brain. In some cases, imaging of the skull and brain was performed prior to autopsy; in others imaging took place after autopsy on the isolated, formalin-fixed brain. The imaging findings were correlated with the criminological data and the results of macroscopic and microscopic examination of the brain. The findings on the bony structures of the head provided imaging criteria for differentiation between entrance and exit of the gunshot wounds, which corresponded to the forensic pathological findings at autopsy. CT scans and MRI of the cerebral parenchyma revealed lanes of opaque bone and missile fragments along the course of the missile, which allowed recognition of the missile track in 3D reconstruction. Biometric reconstruction allowed easy determination of the angle of the missile track in all three planes. Examination of the parenchymal structures and imaging of the isolated, formalin-fixed brain enabled tracking of the missile path directly along the zone of destruction as well as demonstration of secondary changes such as air bubbles along the bullet course, hemorrhage and edema. The significance of a translucent zone surrounding the missile track in several cases remains unclear; it probably represents tissue destruction secondary to temporary cavitation. The imaging procedures described here allowed excellent documentation of in situ conditions, while the storing of data enabled biometric reconstruction for determination of the angle of trajectory, of entrance and exit wounds, and the extent of tissue damage along the missile track and, possibly, in the zone of temporary cavitation.
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|Published - 01.06.2003