Gunshot trauma in human long bones: towards practical diagnostic guidance for forensic anthropologists

Anika Veenstra, Wim Kerkhoff, Roelof-Jan Oostra, Ignasi Galtés

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article*Academicpeer-review


In contrast to cranial gunshot trauma, diagnosis and interpretation of gunshot trauma to long bones remains difficult and controversial. The aim of this study is to review the published literature on fracture patterns resulting from gunshot trauma in human long bones, and to use the described characteristics to provide practical guidance for the forensic anthropologist. In order to achieve this, medical and forensic publications on this topic were reviewed. Several types of fractures, such as linear, oblique, comminuted and butterfly fractures, have been observed in either the shaft or the ends of long bones. Indirect fractures that are not caused by bullets striking bone directly but by bullet-induced forces to the surrounding soft tissue have been found as well. Some of these fractures are related to a specific context or mechanism which might help in the forensic reconstruction of events. It is recommended that future research should focus on available medical data to provide more detailed descriptions on fracture patterns for forensic purposes. Experimentation with bone surrogates and computer modelling might also provide better and more realistic reconstructions of gunshot trauma in the future and provide valuable insights for its diagnosis and interpretation in forensic anthropology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic science, medicine, and pathology
Early online date2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


  • Ballistics
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Fracture
  • Gunshot trauma
  • Long bones

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