Forensic imaging of projectiles using cone-beam computed tomography

Forensic Sci Int. 2009 Sep 10;190(1-3):38-41. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.05.009. Epub 2009 Jun 7.


In patients with gunshot injuries, it is easy to detect a projectile within the body due to the high-density of the object, but artefacts make it difficult to obtain information about the deformation and the exact location of the projectile in surrounding tissues. Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) is a new radiological imaging modality that allows radio-opaque objects to be localised and assessed in three dimensions. The full potential of the use of CBCT in forensic medicine has not yet been explored. In this study, three different modern projectiles were fired into the heads of pig cadavers (n=6) under standardised conditions. Tissue destruction and the location of the projectiles were analysed separately using CBCT and multi-slice computed tomography (MDCT). The projectiles had the same kinetic energy but showed considerable differences in deformation behaviour. Within the study groups, tissue destruction was reproducible. CBCT is less severely affected by metallic artefacts than MDCT. Therefore CBCT is superior in visualising bone destruction in the immediate vicinity of the projectile and projectile deformation, whereas MDCT allows soft tissue to be evaluated in more detail. CBCT is an improved diagnostic tool for the evaluation of gunshot injuries. In particular, it is superior to MDCT in detecting structural hard-tissue damage in the immediate vicinity of high-density metal projectiles and in identifying the precise location of a projectile in the body.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cone-Beam Computed Tomography*
  • Forensic Ballistics / methods*
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Models, Animal
  • Swine
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Wounds, Gunshot / diagnostic imaging*