Embalming A to Z: Gunshot

Date Published: 
August, 2004
Original Author: 
Todd Van Beck
A S Turner and Sons, Decatur, Georgia
Original Publication: 
ICFM Magazine, August-September 2004

As a matter of course, the location of the wound and parts of the remains punctured by the bullet or charge from the gun will be of greatest importance in determining the degree of difficulty in taking care of these situations.

If the heart is punctured, and the remains not autopsied, it will probably be necessary to do a six-point injection. In modem embalming, instant tissue fixation (otherwise known as "freezing the head") is a preferable method to ensure minimum swelling of the facial features.

It is suggested that both common carotids be injected with a high-index arterial fluid diluted with a quality pre- or co-injection chemical. When I was teaching embalming at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, this method of "freezing" was used constantly.

Basically the injector is set at the highest pressure and highest rate of flow, and by intermittently injecting from the off/on switch at a ratio of on for 1 second and off for 15 seconds, the fluid is presented to the tissues so quickly that the chemicals literally fixate the tissues and hence stop swelling.

I realize that this method will shock many embalmers, but I have used it for years with good solid results.

If the gunshot entered the cranium, there will probably be black eyes and distention. In these cases, it is wise to turn the back eyelid, inside out and open the mucous lining inside the eyelids, then digitally remove the volume of clotted blood. This results in a reducing of the distention and removes some discoloration.

Also, injecting a bleaching agent will eliminate much of the discoloration.