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Forensic Sci Int. 2009 May 30;187(1-3):81-6. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.03.002. Epub 2009 Apr 5.

The morphology of cutaneous burn injuries and the type of heat application.

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Institute of Legal Medicine, University Hospital, Röntgenstr. 23, 48149 Münster, Germany.


The morphology of burn injuries in 120 consecutive patients from the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, CHR, Hospital B in Lille was correlated to the etiology and type of heat. Analysis identified five typical patterns of cutaneous burn injuries. Jet of flame-pattern from methylated spirits and gasoline detonations: superficial burn injuries; sparing of skin wrinkles and the submental region; absence or small amounts of soot; preference of exposed body regions, esp. the face and hands. Explosion-pattern from explosions and electrothermal injuries: superficial burn injuries; sparing of skin wrinkles but not of the submental region; soot; preference of exposed body regions. Alveolar soot arrangement and metallisation in electrothermal injuries. Considerable third-degree burns in dust explosions. Flame-pattern from direct flame effects due to burning gasoline or oil, open fires or ignited clothing: nonuniform depth including large third-degree burns; no sparing of the submental region; soot; preference of body regions covered by clothing. Immersion-pattern: superficial (bullous) injuries; blurred junction between scalded and unscalded areas; extremities, buttocks, and back are favourite sites; cave child abuse: waterlines and zebra-burns. Spilling-pattern: superficial injuries; sharp junction between scalded and unscalded areas; head, anterior trunk, and upper extremities are favourite sites; running off and splashing stains. Consideration of these patterns can assist the reconstruction in fire investigations or unclear scaldings. In cases of suspected arson, a typical burn injury pattern or a single finding not compatible with the rest of the pattern can disprove a suspect or raise the level of suspicion.

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