Sir Victor Horsley's contributions to the study and treatment of gunshot wounds of the head

George R. Cybulski, James L. Stone, Ketan J. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


SIR VICTOR HORSLEY'S many contributions to neurological surgery include experimental and clinical studies of gunshot wounds (GSW) of the head. Horsley's publications from 1894 to 1897 and 1914 to 1915 on GSWs were reviewed. Horsley described GSWs in animal and clay models, illustrating characteristics of the primary missile tract and secondary cavitation. A transcranial GSW model in 67 dogs related intracranial damage to the projectile's velocity and sectional area, producing a marked sudden increase in intracranial pressure that presumably "tunneled" to the medullary respiratory and cardiac centers. If the resultant sudden apnea was treated with artificial respiration and prompt surgical decompression, the animal often survived. In these animal experiments, Horsley clearly described increased intracranial pressure, hypertension, and bradycardia - later recognized as the Cushing response or triad. With the onset of World War I, Horsley again reviewed the ballistics of military weaponry, emphasizing projectile spin and velocity as the main wounding mechanisms. He was outspoken against the "wicked tradition" of neglecting cranial GSWs and personally treated cases with aggressive respiratory support and prompt decompression of devitalized tissue. Horsley's contributions to the experimental and clinical aspects of GSWs to the head are consistent with his other important contributions to neurosurgery and have largely stood the test of time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)808-811
Number of pages4
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008


  • Gunshot injuries
  • Head trauma
  • History of Neurosurgery
  • Victor Horsley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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