Self-inflicted nail-gun injury with 12 cranial penetrations and associated cerebral trauma: Case report and review of the literature

Zachary N. Litvack, Matthew A. Hunt, Jason S. Weinstein, G. Alexander West

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


In this case report, the authors describe a 33-year-old man who presented with headache due to the presence of 12 nail-gun nails impacted in his cranium and cerebral parenchyma. The authors also review the relevant literature regarding penetrating brain injury. The patient's physical examination revealed a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15 and impairment of abduction of the right eye and abduction of the jaw producing dysarthria; the remaining results of the neurological examination were normal. Both x-ray films and computerized tomography (CT) scans of the head revealed the presence of 12 nails, the majority of which were located intracranially. A scattering artifact limited the ability of CT scanning to demonstrate any intracranial hemorrhage. Angiography did not demonstrate any evidence of traumatic vascular injury. After general anesthesia had been induced in the patient, the nails were removed in the operating room. Following removal of the final nail, a small left temporal craniotomy was performed to control hemorrhage from a tear in the left middle meningeal artery. Despite the development of a postoperative insular hematoma, the patient was discharged home with minimal deficits. This patient is the only known survivor of the largest number of foreign objects (12) to penetrate the skull intentionally. Overall, self-inflicted nail-gun injuries are less common than accidental discharges. A review of the literature, however, suggests that for penetrating brain injury, self-infliction is the more common mechanism. For those patients who survive such an injury, clinical decision making must focus on preventing further cortical or vascular damage. A rational management strategy should permit these patients to be discharged with no additional injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)828-834
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2006


  • Brain trauma
  • Foreign body
  • Missile injury
  • Nail gun
  • Penetrating brain injury
  • Self-inflicted injury

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