Forensic Radiology Pitfalls: CT Imaging in Gunshot Wounds of the Head

J Forensic Sci. 2018 Mar;63(2):631-634. doi: 10.1111/1556-4029.13576. Epub 2017 Jun 20.


Computed tomography (CT) imaging is increasingly used in emergency departments and trauma services and is being offered as a supplemental tool with autopsy in coroner's and medical examiner's offices throughout the United States. The availability of CT images in lieu of traditional X-rays for medicolegal autopsies may lead to misinterpretation of images for forensic pathologists who are not familiar with these types of images. Forensic pathologists must become familiar with CT imaging, the basis of CT image formation and how to interpret CT images appropriately. We highlight potential pitfalls of CT image interpretation through two cases of fatal gunshot wounds of the head. Antemortem CT imaging available at the time of autopsy led to discrepancy between the initial image findings and the autopsy due to inexperienced manipulation of the images. With appropriate understanding of CT image interpretation and manipulation, forensic personnel should be able to avoid most sources of misinterpretation.

Keywords: computed tomography; forensic imaging; forensic science; gunshot wound; imaging artifact; medical investigation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / diagnostic imaging*