Emami P, Kaiser TM, Regelsberger J, Goebell E, Fiehler J, Westphal M, Heese O.
Case report: surviving a tiger attack. Neurosurg Rev. 2012 Oct;35(4):621-4.
Attacks on humans by large predators are rare, especially in Northern Europe. In cases of involvement of the craniocervical compartment, most of the attacks are not survived. We report on a case where the patient survived a tiger attack despite severe head trauma and discuss the circumstances leading to the patient's survival and excellent outcome. The patient we report on is a 28-year-old tamer, who was attacked by three tigers during an evening show. A bite to the head resulted in multiple injuries including left-sided skull penetration wounds with dislocated fractures, dural perforations, and brain parenchyma lesions. The patient recovered without neurological deficits after initial ICU treatment. No infection occurred. In order to understand the mechanism of the tiger's bite to the patient's cranium, a simulation of the attack was performed using a human and a tiger skull put together at identical positions to the bite marks in a CT scan. It seems that during the bite, the animal was not able to clamp down on the patient's skull between its canine teeth and therefore reduced bite forces were applied. Survival of an attack by a large predator that targeted the cervical-cranial compartment with an excellent outcome is not described in the literature. We were surprised to find only minor lesions of the brain parenchyma despite the obvious penetration of the skull by the tiger's canines. This seems to be related to the specific dynamics of the cranial assault and the reduced forces applied to the patient's head demonstrated in a 3D bite simulation.