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J Forensic Sci. 2008 May;53(3):720-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00700.x.

Characterization of lesions in hanging deaths.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Forensic Science, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, C /San Francisco s/n, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


Hanging is a common method of committing suicide and a routine task in medico-legal autopsies. The hanging mark is the most relevant external sign and its characteristics are well known, but, for unknown reasons, there are major differences in reports on internal findings. We retrospectively studied 228 consecutive cases of hanging deaths. A complete standard autopsy was performed for every case. We investigated the association between the characteristics of the hanging mark and the frequency of bone, cartilage, soft tissue, and vascular injuries with the mode of suspension. Most cases (75.3%) presented some kind of bone or cartilage fracture, but these were unrelated to any of the variables studied. Vascular lesions are clearly more infrequent: intimal injuries were found in the carotid artery (9.1%), the jugular vein (2.2%), and ruptures of the carotid adventitial layer (21.7%). These could be partially associated with the use of a hard fixed noose and body weight.

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