Pressure wave injuries to the nervous system caused by high-energy missile extremity impact: Part II. Distant effects on the central nervous system--a light and electron microscopic study on pigs

J Trauma. 1990 Mar;30(3):295-306. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199003000-00007.


The aim of the present study was to investigate if distant effects could be detected within the central nervous system after impact of a high-energy missile in the left thigh of young pigs. Pressure transducers implanted in various parts of the body of the animal, including the brain, recorded a short-lasting burst of oscillating pressure waves with high frequencies and large amplitudes, traversing the body tissue with a velocity of about that of sound in water (1,460 m/s). The distance between the point of impact and the brain and cervical spinal cord is in the range of 0.5 m. Macroscopic examination revealed that there was no gross brain tissue disruption or visible blood-brain barrier dysfunction. Light microscopic examination demonstrated myelin invaginations in the largest axons and shrinkage of axoplasm. Electron microscopic examination revealed a reduction in the number of microtubules, especially in the larger axons in the brainstem. Disintegration of Nissl substance, i.e., chromatolysis, was noticed after 48 hr in many Purkinje nerve cells in the cerebellum, concomitantly with the appearance of an increased frequency of association between lamellar bodies and mitochondria. Changes could also be observed in the cervical spinal cord and, at reduced frequency and extent, in the optic nerve and in other parts of the brain. These effects were evident within a few minutes after the trauma and persisted even 48 hr after the extremity injury. It is concluded that distant effects, likely to be caused by the oscillating high-frequency pressure waves, appear in the central nervous system after a high-energy missile extremity impact.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Carotid Arteries / physiopathology
  • Central Nervous System / pathology*
  • Central Nervous System / ultrastructure
  • Female
  • Hindlimb / injuries
  • Male
  • Muscles / physiopathology
  • Pressure
  • Swine
  • Wounds, Gunshot / pathology*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / physiopathology