International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 122, Issue 1, pp 1–5 | Cite as

The role of computed tomography in terminal ballistic analysis

  • G. N. Rutty
  • P. Boyce
  • C. E. Robinson
  • A. J. Jeffery
  • B. Morgan
Original Article


Terminal ballistics concerns the science of projectile behaviour within a target and includes wound ballistics that considers what happens when a projectile strikes a living being. A number of soft tissue ballistic simulants have been used to assess the damage to tissue caused by projectiles. Standard assessment of these materials, such as ballistic soap or ordnance gelatine, requires the block to be opened or that a mould to be made to visualize the wound track. This is time consuming and may affect the accuracy of the findings especially if the block dries and alters shape during the process. Therefore, accurate numerical analysis of the permanent or temporary cavity is limited. Computed tomography (CT) potentially offers a quicker non-invasive analysis tool for this task. Four commercially purchased ballistic glycerine soap blocks were used. Each had a single firearm discharged into it from a distance of approximately 15 cm using both gunshot and shotgun projectiles. After discharge, each block was imaged by a modern 16 slice multi-detector CT scanner and analysed using 3-D reconstruction software. Using the anterior–posterior and lateral scout views and the multi-plane reconstructed images, it was possible to visualize the temporary cavity, as well as the fragmentation and dispersal pattern of the projectiles, the distance travelled and angle of dispersal within the block of each projectile or fragment. A virtual cast of the temporary cavity can be also be made. Multi-detector CT with 3-D analysis software is shown to create a reliable permanent record of the projectile path allowing rapid analysis of different firearms and projectiles.


Forensic Radiology Firearms Computed tomography CT Mobile Ballistic soap Cavity 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. N. Rutty
    • 1
  • P. Boyce
    • 2
  • C. E. Robinson
    • 3
  • A. J. Jeffery
    • 1
  • B. Morgan
    • 3
  1. 1.Forensic Pathology Unit, University of Leicester, Robert Kilpatrick BuildingLeicester Royal InfirmaryLeicesterUK
  2. 2.LGC ForensicsRoyal ArmouriesLeedsUK
  3. 3.Imaging DepartmentLeicester Royal InfirmaryLeicesterUK

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