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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69734 Find in a Library
Title: Sharp Force Injury (From Medicolegal Investigation of Death, P 159-201, 1980, by Werner U Spitz and Russell S Fisher - See NCJ-69730)
Author(s): W U Spitz
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 43
Sponsoring Agency: Charles C. Thomas
Springfield, IL 62704
Sale Source: Charles C. Thomas
2600 South First Street
Springfield, IL 62704
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The identification of sharp force injury upon autopsy examination, as presented in a forensic pathology text, is discussed; cuts or incised wounds and stab wounds are emphasized.
Abstract: Cuttings and stabbings are second only to gunfire as a cause of homicidal death in the United States. Information of great importance in the reconstruction of a given case may be derived from precise examination of a cut or stab wound. A cut or incised wound results whenever a sharp-edged object is drawn over the skin with sufficient pressure to produce an injury that is longer than it is deep. A knife, razor blade, or piece of glass or china could cause a typical cut. The wound edges may be straight or jagged, depending on the shape of the cutting instrument, but they are never abraded or undermined. A sharp object thus cuts and divides the skin as it penetrates. A stab wound results from penetration of a pointed instrument into the depths of the body, causing a wound that is deeper than its length on the skin. The thrust of a knife, for example, produces such an injury. As with a cut, the edges of a stab wound are sharp, straight, and not undermined. Examination of a cut or stab wound frequently permits conclusions regarding the manner in which the injury was inflicted. A stab wound generally suggests homicidal assault by virtue of its appearance and depth. Blood loss is usually minimal, since bleeding is primarily internal from this type of injury. Cuts or slashes on the upper extermities, especially the forearms and hands, are referred to as defense wounds; they are sustained when the victim of assault raises his arms to protect face and chest. Fingernail marks and abrasions are frequently associated with stabbing cases, and recognition of them is indispensable for reconstrtuction of the circumstances surrounding death. Self-inflicted stab wounds are uncommon. Suicidal cuts characteristically appear as multiple parallel cuts of variable depth whose edges commonly reveal several sharp angles, and the pattern or distribution of wounds may suggest a specific type of instrument. Main factors associated with cutting and stabbing injuries that frequently lead to the death of the victim are exsanguination, air embolism, asphyxiation, pneomothorax, and infection. Extensive photographs and four references are included in the chapter. For related documents, see NCJ 69731-33 and 69735-47.
Index Term(s): Autopsy; Criminal investigation; Fatalities; Forensic medicine; Homicide; Medicolegal considerations
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