Gunshot injuries to the head and brain caused by low-velocity handguns and rifles: A review

M. Oehmichen, C. Meissner, H. G. König, H. B. Gehl

38 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Reconstruction of brain injuries is a basic task of forensic neuropathology. For better understanding of the wound ballistics of gunshot injuries to the brain caused by low-velocity firearms (E o < 550 J), we reviewed the respective contributions of: (1) biomechanical reconstruction by postmortem imaging techniques, (2) biometry of the extent of very early microscopic tissue destruction, and (3) microscopic studies on the type and extent of early microscopic reactions around the permanent missile track. Material and methods: A selected case material of 47 victims of lethal gunshot wounding to the brain was studied. (1) Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques were compared with macroscopic findings in 17 cases. (2) Morphometric evaluation of the zones of cellular and axonal destruction around the permanent track was performed in 20 cases (survival time: <90 min). (3) Microscopic studies of the emigration of leukocytes and macrophages plus axonal expression of β-amyloid precursor protein (β-APP) were conducted in 10 cases (survival time: >90 min). Results and conclusions: (1) Imaging procedures provided valuable information on entrance and exit wounds, the missile track and secondary changes. (2) Biometry revealed a destruction zone of ca. 3.6 cm around the permanent track corresponding to the "temporary cavity". (3) Microscopic studies of reactive changes demonstrated axonal injury at sites remote from the permanent cavity that could explain the very early respiratory arrest following low-velocity gunshot injury.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)111-120
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 16.12.2004


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