Gunshot Wounds: Bullet Caliber Is Increasing, 1998-2003

Adibe, Obinna O.; Caruso, Robert P.; Swan, Kenneth G.
April 2004
American Surgeon;Apr2004, Vol. 70 Issue 4, p322
Academic Journal
In 1999, Caruso reported data from the level 1 trauma center in Newark, New Jersey, documenting "... an ominous trend toward the use of larger caliber firearms in accidents, homicides and suicides." Those data were derived from measurements of bullets removed from our trauma patients and submitted to the Surgical Pathology laboratory from 1981 through 1997. We further document this trend with measurements of similar source bullets from 1998 through 2002. During the same time, we recorded mortality among gunshot wound victims treated at our trauma center. Bullets submitted to surgical pathology during the years 1998 through 2002 were measured with a millimeter rule to determine caliber or transverse diameter. A total of 367 bullets were studied in this 5-year period. Bullets deformed beyond measurability (∼22%) and shotgun pellets (<5%) were excluded from our study. Bullet calibers were expressed in terms of mean plus or minus standard error (x ± SE). Mortality figures were derived from analysis of medical records concerning the outcomes all victims of gunshot wounds (E 922, E 965) treated at our hospital during the years studied and expressed as percentages. Linear regression of mean bullet caliber over time was performed, and analysis of variance was used to assess statistical significance of apparent differences in mortality. Bullet caliber continued to increase from 8.47 ± 0.22 to 9.16 ± 0.15 mm during the 5-year observation period. Linear regression reveals R = 0.9649, P < 0.01. Mortality ranged from 4.7 per cent to 10.7 per cent but the differences were not significant (P > 0.20). These data support a continued trend toward the use of larger caliber firearms in accidents, homicides, and suicides. Mortality does not change during this time and presumably because of improvements in treatment, from resuscitation to definitive surgery and its convalescence.


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