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Use of an Alternative Light Source to Assess Strangulation Victims

Holbrook, Debra S. RN, SANE-A, FNE A/P1; Jackson, M. Christine MD1

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0b013e31829beb1e
Original Articles

Alternative light sources (ALSs) are commonly used at crime scenes and in forensic laboratories to collect evidence such as latent fingerprints, body fluids, hair, and fibers. This article describes the use of this technology to reveal soft tissue injuries that are not visible to the naked or unaided eye in patients who report strangulation. The value of this information to the medical, nursing, and judicial systems is discussed. The records of the 172 strangulation patients seen in our forensic nurse examiner program between 2009 and 2010 were reviewed. The SPEX Crimescope (SPEX Forensics, Edison, New Jersey) was used during the assessment of all of them. Ninety-three percent of the patients had no visible evidence of external injuries on physical examination. The ALS revealed positive findings of intradermal injuries in 98% of that group. Information obtained with ALS devices helps medical and nursing practitioners understand the gravity of patients’ injuries, influences medical treatment decisions and follow-up care, and supports the prosecution of the perpetrators of crimes of violence. Educational programs about the application of ALS and the interpretation of its findings are valuable for medical, nursing, and other forensic disciplines.

Author Affiliations:1Mercy Medical Center.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Debra S. Holbrook, RN, SANE-A, FNE A/P, Mercy Medical Center, 301 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, MD 21202. E-mail:

Received January 25, 2013; Accepted for publication May 14, 2013.

© 2013 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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