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Ballistic trauma or gunshot wound (GSW) is a form of serious physical trauma sustained from the discharge of firearms or munitions. The most common forms of trauma stem from firearms used in armed conflicts, civilian sporting, recreational pursuits and criminal activity. Ballistic trauma in most cases can be fatal for the recipient, or causes long-term consequences.
Gunshot injuries from different types of firearms and ammunition vary in severity depending on the anatomic location involved and the different effects from the ballistic properties of the penetrating projectiles. Ballistic factors such as the impact velocity and energy should not be considered in isolation, as their specific effects are determined by the interaction between the projectile and tissues. Increased tissue damage can result from tumbling of non-deforming rifle bullets and deformation of expanding bullets. Both of these mechanisms increase substantially the energy transfer to the wound and its diameter, also producing a pulsating temporary cavity associated with pressure changes within tissue.