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Forensic Sci Int. 2008 Apr 7;176(2-3):200-8. Epub 2007 Oct 31.

Cigarette burns in forensic medicine.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, University Hospital of Freiburg, Albertstrasse 9, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


Skin lesions suspected to have been caused by a burning cigarette require thorough diagnostic evaluation as to the mode of infliction. Accidental cigarette burns must be differentiated from injuries due to self-infliction or maltreatment. The typical categories are presented on the basis of the literature and exemplary cases from the authors' own study material. An intentional infliction must be taken into consideration when a body region is involved which does not normally come into contact with a cigarette by chance. Full thickness burns from glowing cigarettes require an exposure time of more than 1s. One should also keep in mind the possibility of confusion with local skin infections or thermal effects by traditional medical practices (e.g. moxibustion). In unclear cases, repeated inspection of the lesion is recommended in order to facilitate its classification as to causation and age. The courses of healing in first- to third-degree cigarette burns are demonstrated by means of continuous photographic documentation. The discussion deals with different kinds of accidental and intentional cigarette burns, e.g. in drug addicts, psychiatric patients, victims of child abuse, maltreatment and torture, but also in persons feigning a criminal offence.

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