Neuropathology and pressure in the pig brain resulting from low-impulse noise exposure

J Neurotrauma. 2008 Dec;25(12):1397-406. doi: 10.1089/neu.2008.0602.


Military personnel are exposed to occupational levels of blast overpressure during training. This study characterizes the pressure-time histories of air, underwater, and localized blast, and correlates blast parameters with neuropathology. Blast overpressure was produced by a howitzer, a bazooka, an automatic rifle, underwater explosives, or a shock tube. Anesthetized pigs were exposed in positions that simulated real training scenarios. Underwater exposures were performed using explosives at distances recommended by safety requirements. In other experiments, rats were exposed via a shock tube. The pressure changes were recorded with a hydrophone sensor in the brain of the pig and in rats with an optical fiber sensor. Histological examination of porcine brains revealed small parenchymal and subarachnoid hemorrhages, predominately in the occipital lobe, cerebellum, and medulla oblongata. Relative to the peak pressure in air, that in porcine brain (Pmax brain/air) was 0.7 for the bazooka and 0.5 and 0.7, respectively, for the 9- and 30-kPa howitzer. The attenuation was stronger in water: the detonation pulse had a brain/water ratio of 0.1, and the secondary pulses had ratios of 0.3-0.4. The results indicate that low-frequency spectra penetrate easily from air or water into the brain, but high-frequency spectra appear to be filtered by body structures. In addition, blast waves were recorded in the brain and abdomen of pigs after local exposure via shock tube to either the abdomen or the top of the skull. When the abdomen was exposed, the maximal peak value in the brain was only 3% of that in the abdomen. Moreover, part of this pressure could have been derived from the air outside the head. The results gave little support to significant transmission of pressure within the body.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blast Injuries / etiology*
  • Blast Injuries / pathology*
  • Blast Injuries / physiopathology
  • Brain Injuries / etiology*
  • Brain Injuries / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Firearms*
  • Intracranial Pressure
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects
  • Rats
  • Swine