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J Clin Pathol. 2004 Apr;57(4):355-9.

The practical application of reflectance spectrophotometry for the demonstration of haemoglobin and its degradation in bruises.

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University of Sydney, Westmead Department of Forensic Medicine, PO Box 533, Wentworthville, NSW 2145, Australia.

Erratum in

  • J Clin Pathol. 2004 Aug;57(8):896.



To develop a non-invasive method to demonstrate the presence of haemoglobin and its degradation products in bruises in live human subjects for the purposes of objectively assisting in the determination of the age of a bruise.


The cuvette holder unit of a Cary 100 Bio UV-Visible Spectrophotometer was replaced with the manufacture's fibre optic cable and optical reflectance probe. The probe was placed on the skin surface. The absorption spectrum from 780 to 380 nm was collected and transformed into the first derivative. Calculation of the first derivative permits absorption attributed to haemoglobin degradation (primarily to bilirubin, but also haemosiderin) to be separated from absorption by haemoglobin. First derivative and colorimetry values, expressed as CIEL*a*b data, were derived from scans of 50 bruises.


The fibre optic cable and probe allowed the spectrophotometer to collect reproducible absorption spectra of bruises in the skin of living subjects. A bruise at three days has greater negative first derivative values at 480 and 490 nm than does a fresh bruise, indicating the local degradation of haemoglobin. Correlation between the first derivative and the CIEL*a*b "b" values in a series of bruises indicates that the yellow colour in a bruise is proportional to the amount of local haemoglobin breakdown.


The ability to demonstrate the presence of haemoglobin and measure its degradation in bruises in living human subjects by a non-invasive method has not been described previously, and may be of use in the objective ageing of bruises for forensic purposes.

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