A tangential gunshot wound to the head: Case report and review of the literature

Hamad Issam Farhat, Brian Hood, M. Ross Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Patients with tangential gunshot wounds (TGSWs) commonly present with a good Glasgow Coma Scale score and without a history of loss of consciousness. Typically, the bullet does not breach the skull, however, there is a considerable force directed into the brain, and these patients are best treated as sustaining a moderate-to-severe blunt head injury. These patients require observation and repeat imaging. Physicians should be aware of this entity as these patients can deteriorate in a delayed fashion. Objectives: The authors present a case of a TGSW to the head in a neurologically intact patient. The initial post-injury computed tomography (CT) scan showed a very small subdural hematoma (SDH) with no overlying fracture of the skull. A delayed CT scan performed 4 h after arrival to the Emergency Department and 6 h after injury demonstrated an increase in size of the SDH, new traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage, and bilateral cerebral contusions. Clinically, the patient showed worsening of her neurological examination. She underwent aggressive non-surgical treatment for increased intracranial pressure with almost complete recovery. Conclusion: Although patients with TGSWs are typically in good condition upon presentation, these injuries are not always trivial, and these patients should have, at minimum, a non-contrast brain CT scan to evaluate underlying damage to the brain and skull. In addition, a delayed CT scan and close observation on a neurosurgical service are indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e111-e114
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • intracranial injury
  • subdural hematoma
  • tangential gunshot wound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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