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Identification of Skeletal Fractures Before and After Removal of Soft Tissue: A Case Report

Kemp, Walter MD*†; McKeown, Ashley PhD; Symes, Steven PhD§; Skelton, Randall PhD

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 1 - p 18–22
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e318273b606
Case Reports

Evaluation of decomposed individuals by forensic pathologists is a common occurrence; however, complete removal of soft tissue to closely examine the skeletal elements of these individuals is not common. The decomposition process can mask injuries and impair examination of the skeleton. The case presented by the authors illustrates how complete removal of soft tissue from individuals who have undergone advanced decomposition is necessary to identify all fractures of the skeletal elements. Although removal of the soft tissue from all decomposed remains is not possible, this case shows how carefully the choice of whether to deflesh these remains should be made.

From the *Montana State Forensic Science Division, Missoula, MT; †University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX; ‡Department of Anthropology, University of Montana, Missoula, MT; and §Department of Anthropology and Applied Forensic Sciences, Mercyhurst College, Erie, PA.

Manuscript received May 27, 2011; accepted October 20, 2011.

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Walter Kemp, MD, Forensic Science Division, PO Box 16010, Missoula, MT 59808. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.