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Postmortem Extravasation of Blood Potentially Simulating Antemortem Bruising

Burke, Michael Philip M.B., B.S., B.Sc., F.R.C.P.A., Dip. Forens., Path.; Olumbe, Alex Kirasi M.B., Ch.B., M.Med.(Path), D.M.J. (Path)., Dip.Forens. Med. (R.C.P.A.); Opeskin, Kenneth M.B., B.S., F.R.C.P.A.

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 1998 - Volume 19 - Issue 1 - p 46-49

A case of florid postmortem extravasation of blood, potentially simulating antemortem bruising, is presented. A 98-year-old woman died in hospital, the cause of death being certified as congestive cardiac failure. After burial, it was apparent that the grave had been disturbed by crowbars and shovels. Exhumation was performed and autopsy revealed considerable apparent facial bruising as well as lacerations and fractures. There was no documentation by the medical or nursing staff of any injuries to the deceased preceding death. There was also no documentation of injury by the funeral directors. Subsequently, two men admitted to removing the body from the grave and mutilating it. Thus, what was apparently facial bruising was, in fact, postmortem extravasation of blood simulating antemortem bruising. The degree of extravasation was considered to be related to the severity of the injuries, loose subcutaneous tissues of the head and neck, and dependent position of the body upon return to the grave. This case demonstrates the degree of postmortem extravasation of blood that may occur in particular circumstances and may simulate antemortem bruising. In other circumstances, the postmortem extravasation of blood may well have led investigators to pursue inquiries regarding homicide.

From the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia.

Received September 19, 1996; accepted December 11, 1996.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Michael Philip Burke, Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, 57-83 Kavanangh Street, Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria 3006, Australia.

© Lippincott-Raven Publishers.