A new nonpenetrating ballistic injury

Ann Surg. 1978 Dec;188(6):753-7. doi: 10.1097/00000658-197812000-00007.


A new, nonpenetrating ballistic injury mechanism involving individuals protected by soft body armor is described. Experimental studies using laboratory animals have demonstrated that despite stopping missile penetration, the heart, liver, spleen, and spinal cord are vulnerable to injury. The rapid jolting force of an impacting bullet is contrasted with the usually encountered mechanisms producing blunt trauma injury. The experimental methodology used to assess a 20% increase in survival probability and an 80% decrease in the need for surgical intervention with a new soft body armor is reviewed. Five cases of ballistic assaults on law enforcement personnel protected by soft body armor are presented. Four emphasize the potentially lifesaving qualities of the armor, while the fifth indicates the need for torso encircling design. Hospitalization should follow all assaults, regardless of the innocuous appearance of the skin lesion and the apparent well being on the assaulted individual. Therapeutic guidelines for patient management are suggested.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / physiopathology
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Goats
  • Heart Injuries / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Perforation / etiology
  • Liver / injuries
  • Lung Injury
  • Middle Aged
  • Protective Clothing
  • Spleen / injuries
  • Thoracic Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / complications
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / physiopathology*