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Radiography of Perforating Centerfire Rifle Wounds of the Trunk

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 45 Issue: 3 Dated: May 2000 Pages: 597-601
Dan Straathof M.D.; Bernard G. Bannach M.D.; Anthony J. Wilson M.B.; Graeme P. Dowling M.D.
Date Published
May 2000
5 pages
This article attempts to determine whether the radiographic distribution of bullet fragments in perforating centerfire rifle wounds of the chest and abdomen is a useful predictor of bullet trajectory.
Study cases were limited to single gunshot wounds without surgical intervention or immediate targets, and for which adequate radiography was available. Three pathologists individually viewed the radiographs on two separate occasions; wound locations were provided for the second viewing (Group 2). Differences of opinion regarding direction of fire were resolved by consensus review. A trauma radiologist independently made two sets of interpretations in the same way. These groups of interpretations were compared with the actual bullet direction determined at autopsy. Of 21 cases included in the study, only 3 did not require consensus resolution in either group. Accuracy of pathologists’ interpretation improved with provision of wound locations; the radiologist achieved similar improvement. Both the pathologists and radiologist interpreted several cases the same way in both groups; of those cases interpreted differently, the second interpretation was occasionally incorrect after correct interpretation in Group 1. The study concluded that bullet direction for perforating centerfire rifle wounds cannot be accurately determined from postmortem radiographs. When wound location is known, the ability to predict bullet direction improves but is still subject to error, including a lack of consistency among observers. Figures, tables, references