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Sharp Force Injury (From Medicolegal Investigation of Death: Guidelines for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigation, Fourth Edition, P 532-606, 2006, Werner U. Spitz and Daniel J. Spitz, eds. -- See NCJ-214126)

NCJ Number
Wener U. Spitz
Date Published
75 pages
This chapter discusses and provides illustrative photographs of various types of cutting and stabbing wounds to various parts of the body inflicted by various types of instruments.
A cut results when a sharp-edged object is drawn over the skin with sufficient pressure to produce an injury that is longer than it is deep. A distinctive characteristic of an injury produced by a sharp instrument is the absence of small, thin delicate bridges of soft tissue between the sides of the stab wound or cut. A stab wound results from penetration with a pointed instrument into the body, causing a wound that is deeper than its length on the skin. The lack of crushing and tearing associated with sharp force injury is the reason why the skin around a stab wound is usually without bruising. Examination of a cut or stab wound often can help in determining the manner in which the injury was inflicted. A stab wound generally suggests a homicidal assault. The amount of blood lost at the scene is often small, since bleeding may be mostly internal. Cuts or slashes on the upper extremities, especially the forearms and hands, usually indicate victim attempts to keep the attacker's knife from penetrating vital organs. In the case of a struggle for the weapon, fingernail marks, bruises, and scratches on the victim's body may support a defendant's claim that he/she stabbed the deceased in self-defense. One section of the chapter discusses how an examination of the features of a cut or stab wound can assist in identifying the type of object used to inflict the wound. Other sections address the medical complications of cutting and stabbing injuries that can lead to death, the timing of stab wounds, and dismemberment. Extensive figures and 4 references