Man Survives Nail Gun Injury
May 8, 2006

"Lucky" -- that should be the name of the man who survived after he picked up a nail gun and shot himself 12 times in the head! Doctors in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University (Portland, OR) recently described this unusual case in the Journal of Neurosurgery.

The patient came to the hospital complaining of a headache. He said that he had an accident with a nail gun one day earlier. When X-rays were taken of the man's head, the doctors noticed 12 nails extending into the man's brain. The man also had neck pain, jaw pain and trouble speaking, but other than these symptoms, the man was in good condition! The patient did not want to talk about his injury and became angry when questioned. He later admitted that he shot himself with the nail gun. (One year after the incident, the man said that he used the nail gun in an attempt to commit suicide when he was high on the illegal drug methamphetamine.)

To remove the nails, the doctors first scanned the man's head with a computerized tomography (CT) machine. The CT scan gave the doctors a better idea of where the nails were located and how deep into the brain they extended.

After the man was given an anesthetic to put him to sleep, the doctors used a pair of sterile needle-nose pliers to remove the 12 nails. The doctors were able to stop minor bleeding after the removal of the last nail. Because the wounds were self-inflicted, the man was sent to the psychiatry department for evaluation. The patient, however, left the hospital against the advice of the doctors when the court-ordered hospital stay was over.

The man survived because none of the nails damaged brain areas critical for life. The nails also missed major blood vessels that feed the brain with oxygen and nutrients. He was lucky...very lucky.

Did You Know?

  • This man set a world record for surviving the most (12) self-inflicted objects penetrating the skull and survive.
  • Home use nail guns can fire projectiles at speeds of approximately 30 meters/sec (67 miles/hr). Industrial nail guns can fire projectiles up to 425 meters/sec (951 miles/hour) which is similar to the speed of a bullet fired from a small gun.


Litvack, Z.N., Hunt, M.A., Weinstein, J.S. and West, G.A., Self-inflicted nail-gun injury with 12 cranial penetrations and associated cerebral trauma. Case report and review of the literature, Journal of Neurosurgery, 104:828834, 2006.

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