Fractures at the base of the skull in gunshots to the head
Journal Paper/Review - May 5, 1997
Betz P, Stiefel D, Hausmann Roland, Eisenmenger W
The distribution of fractures at the base of the skull was investigated in 147 victims with lethal head shot wounds caused by handguns or small calibre low-velocity rifles. In individuals without an impact of the projectile at the base of the skull, bullets lodged in the head were found up to a calibre of 7.65 mm (pistol) or .38 special (revolver), respectively. In cases with a trajectory through the cranial fossae positive results were obtained up to 9 mm (pistol) or even .45 (revolver). Fractures in anterior parts of the base of the skull were a rather frequent finding (82% of the cases) and could also be observed in victims shot by low energy guns. Fracture lines in particular in all cranial fossae, however, indicate a comparatively high energy missile and were found in victims without a direct impact of the bullet at the base of the skull after the use of guns with a calibre of at least 7.65 mm. Severe fractures leading to a hinge-like mobility of the base of the skull point also to projectiles of rather high energy. On the other hand, such fractures were also found in a victim with a contact shot by a .22 rifle. Therefore, it must be emphasized that individual factors such as the constitution of the base of the skull, the path of the bullet, technical parameters of the gun and ammunition used are of great importance if conclusions are to be drawn on an unknown gun by evaluation of fractures at the base of the skull.