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The Use of Alternate Light Sources in the Clinical Evaluation of Child Abuse and Sexual Assault

Mackenzie, Bonnie MD*; Jenny, Carole MD, MBA

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000094
Review Article

Alternate light sources are devices that produce visible and invisible light at specific wavelengths to allow for enhanced visualization of fluorescent substances. These devices (which include Wood’s lamp and blue light) are often used in forensics for evidence collection and can be quite useful to physicians in the medical evaluation of suspected physical or sexual assault. An understanding of the proper applications, as well as the limitations, of each alternate light source is imperative to correctly performing and interpreting medical evaluations in the emergency department. This review discusses the evidence from prospective trials in children and adults on the ability of specific alternate light sources to identify evidence of physical or sexual assault and also highlights some promising new technological adjuncts to alternate light sources that may allow for accurate dating of bruising.

From the Departments of *Emergency Medicine and †Pediatrics, Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, RI.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Bonnie Mackenzie, MD, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, 100 York Street, Suite 1F, New Haven, CT 06511 (e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.