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April 28, 1993

Clinicians' Forensic Interpretations of Fatal Gunshot Wounds Often Miss the Mark

JAMA. 1993;269(16):2058-2061. doi:10.1001/jama.1993.03500160020005

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THE ODDS that a trauma specialist will correctly interpret certain fatal gunshot wounds are no better than the flip of a coin, according to a recent study at a level 1 trauma center. The study, which looked at single, perforating (exiting) gunshot wounds and multiple gunshot wounds, found that trauma specialists made errors in 52% of the cases, either in differentiating the entrance and exit wound, or in determining the number of bullets that struck the victim.

Investigators at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, compared the postmortem findings of a board-certified forensic pathologist with the medical records of emergency medicine physicians, trauma surgeons, and neurosurgeons. The study is the first to quantify the forensic acumen of these specialists, says Vincent DiMaio, MD, a forensic pathologist and editor of The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology.

The study's coauthors, Kim Collins, MD, a fourth-year