Importance of 3D-CT imaging in single-bullet cranioencephalic gunshot wounds

Radiol Med. 2012 Apr;117(3):461-70. doi: 10.1007/s11547-011-0784-4. Epub 2012 Jan 21.


Purpose: The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that computed tomography (CT) and three-dimensional (3D) CT imaging techniques can be useful tools for evaluating gunshot wounds of the skull in forensic medicine. Three purposes can be achieved: (1) identifying and recognising the bullet entrance wound - and exit wound, if present; (2) recognising the bullet's intracranial course by studying damage to bone and brain tissue; (3) suggesting hypotheses as to the dynamics of the event.

Materials and methods: Ten cadavers of people who died of a fatal head injury caused by a single gunshot were imaged with total-body CT prior to conventional autoptic examination. Three-dimensional-CT reconstructions were obtained with the volume-rendering technique, and data were analysed by two independent observers and compared with autopsy results.

Results: In our experience, CT analysis and volumetric reconstruction techniques allowed the identification of the bullet entrance and exit wounds and intracranial trajectory, as well as helping to formulate a hypothesis on the extracranial trajectory to corroborate circumstantial evidence.

Conclusions: CT imaging techniques are excellent tools for addressing the most important questions of forensic medicine in the case of gunshot wounds of the skull, with results as good as (or sometimes better than) traditional autoptic methods.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Forensic Ballistics / methods
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / diagnostic imaging*