Stab Cut

A stab or cut is an injury inflicted on the skin by contact with a sharp object. Knife blades, shards of glass, and fragments of metal can penetrate the skin and leave a cutting pattern that will vary depending on the movement of the injured party and the object causing the injury. The sharp edge of these objects severs structures in the skin, leaving no evidence of bridging such as that seen in lacerations. Depending on the shape of the sharp object, the cut edges will be abraded accordingly while the ends of the wound may be squared or pointed (Fig, 25.7:7). Unique abrasions found around a stab wound may represent the effect of the hilt of a knife blade striking the skin (Fig 2.5.7-7). Examination of the stab-wound track may reveal particles of the offending weapon, and such particles should be retained as evidence to assist in the identification of a weapon. The location of specific stabs or cutting wounds may suggest the manner in which they were inflicted. For example, cuts or stabs on the inner (volar) side of the wrist or forearm are consistent with efforts of individuals trying to protect themselves from an assailant by raising their arm in front of their body in a defensive posture. These are called defense wounds by forensic pathologists.

To properly evaluate the wound characteristics of cutting or stabbing wounds, the wound edges must be reapposed. The reapposition counteracts the effect of elastofibroretraction and allows the physician to observe the wound as it occurred. It also enables the physician to identify abraded margins as well as patterns of squared ends or pointed ends. A squared end results from the noncutting or blunt edge of a knife blade, whereas a pointed end results from contact with the sharp edge of a blade. The physician should use transparent tape to hold the edges of the wound together while the wound is photographed. This practice can be extremely valuable in the comparison of the wound with a suspected weapon ( .Fig.: 257:8.).

FIG. 257-8. Transparent tape applied over wound may aid in reconstruction and identification or verification of weapon.

Another example of a patterned abrasion injury is the one caused by fragments of automobile glass. These characteristic wound patterns in human skin can enable the physician to identify whether the glass causing the injury is from a windshield or side auto window. The side window consists of tempered glass that breaks into 5-mm cubes, causing right-angle cuts to the left side of the face of the driver of the vehicle sustaining a driver-side impact. They may also be found on the right side of the face of passenger of a vehicle sustaining a passenger-side impact ( Fig 257-9^). Recognizing these patterns and their location can be useful in establishing who was driving the vehicle at the time of the collision. Cuts from windshield glass are distinguishable from side impact injuries. Windshield glass, which consists of thin layers of laminated glass, breaks into tiny splinters that produce superficial, parallel, linear cuts ( Fig 2,57-9B).

FIG. 257-9A. Right angle lacerations from side window glass of car made of tempered glass that brakes into 5 mm cubes.

FIG. 257-9A. Right angle lacerations from side window glass of car made of tempered glass that brakes into 5 mm cubes.

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