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October 16, 1967

Shrapnel Wounds

Author Affiliations

USA Washington, DC

JAMA. 1967;202(3):245. doi:10.1001/jama.1967.03130160119038

To the Editor:—  A question frequently asked, as in a recent issue of a military news medium, is, "I read about Vietnam casualties suffering shrapnel wounds. Didn't shrapnel go out of date with World War I?" The answer correctly emphasized that shrapnel is an artillery projectile carrying a number of lead balls which is named after a British artillery officer, General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842).Common usage has allowed the application of the term "shrapnel wound" to injuries from bomb, mine, or any type of shell fragments. Nevertheless, when shrapnel describes wounds from high-velocity and high-explosive sources it is a misnomer (Milit Med132:470, 1967). Shrapnel's spherical shell loaded with lead balls was first demonstrated about the time of the siege of Gibralter. In 1803 the British army adopted a revised elongated explosive shell which replaced the old-type shot, and this shrapnel shell was first used successfully in Surinam in