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J Clin Forensic Med. 2002 Dec;9(4):171-4.

Lack of agreement on colour description between clinicians examining childhood bruising.

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Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh EH9 1LF, UK.



In child protection cases clinicians are often asked to describe and age bruises. This paper looks at both intra- and inter-observer variability in the description of childhood bruising.


Fifty-eight bruises on 44 children were described by three observers, the bruises were then photographed and the same observers described the bruises at a later date. The descriptions were compared and classified in terms of complete, partial, or no agreement, both between observers and between the in vivo and photographic descriptions.


Complete agreement on colour description between two observers in vivo occurred in 27% of descriptions in vivo and 24% of photographs. Only 31% of descriptions completely agreed with the later description of a photograph of the same bruise.


This marked variability in colour description, severely questions the practice of estimating the age of bruises especially from clinical photographs as evidence in child protection proceedings.

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