Incisions (cuts) and stabs are sharp-force injuries. The depth of the wound track, relative to the length of the cutaneous wound, distinguishes a stab from an incision. The depth of the stab wound is greater than the length of the skin injury. The depth of an incised wound is typically less than the length of the external wound. Stab wounds are caused by a thrusting motion, which can be either overhand or underhand. Slashing produces an incised wound. An instrument (e.g., knife) that has an edge and a point can both incise and stab. A pointed instrument lacking an edge (e.g., pin) can stab but not readily incise. A sharp-edged surface lacking a point incises but does not stab (Fig. 1). Depending on the sharpness of the edge of the instrument, associated blunt trauma injuries can occur (e.g., chopping with an axe). Impalement is another type of penetrating injury owing to a variably sharp or narrow object that becomes rigidly fixed within the body.

From: Forensic Science and Medicine: Forensic Pathology of Trauma:

Common Problems for the Pathologist By: M. J. Shkrum and D. A. Ramsay © Humana Press Inc., Totowa, NJ

Fig. 1. Incision, posterior scalp. Airplane propeller blade. Associated open skull fracture.

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