Hydrostatic shock

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The term hydrostatic shock describes the observation that a penetrating projectile can produce remote wounding and incapacitating effects in living targets, in addition to local effects in tissue caused by direct impact, through a hydraulic effect in liquid-filled tissues.[1][2] There is scientific evidence that hydrostatic shock can produce remote neural damage and produce incapacitation more quickly than blood loss effects.[3] The debate between proponents of bullets that are "light and fast" versus bullets that are "slow and heavy" often refers to this phenomenon.

Human autopsy results have demonstrated brain hemorrhaging from fatal hits to the chest, including cases with handgun bullets.[4] Thirty-three cases of fatal penetrating chest wounds by a single bullet were selected from a much larger set by excluding all other traumatic factors, including past history.

In such meticulously selected cases brain tissue was examined histologically; samples were taken from brain hemispheres, basal ganglia, the pons, the oblongate and from the cerebellum. Cufflike pattern haemorrhages around small brain vessels were found in all specimens. These haemorrhages are caused by sudden changes of the intravascular blood pressure as a result of a compression of intrathoracic great vessels by a shock wave caused by a penetrating bullet.

J. Krajsa[5]

Contents

Origin of the theory

In the scientific literature, the first discussion of pressure waves created when a bullet hits a living target is presented by E. Harvey Newton and his research group at Princeton University in 1947:[6][7]

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