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Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2010 Dec;6(4):275-81. doi: 10.1007/s12024-010-9171-z. Epub 2010 Jun 20.

Use of reflectance spectrophotometry and colorimetry in a general linear model for the determination of the age of bruises.

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  • 1School of Arts and Sciences (NSW) ACU National, North Sydney, Australia.


Bruises can have medicolegal significance such that the age of a bruise may be an important issue. This study sought to determine if colorimetry or reflectance spectrophotometry could be employed to objectively estimate the age of bruises. Based on a previously described method, reflectance spectrophotometric scans were obtained from bruises using a Cary 100 Bio spectrophotometer fitted with a fibre-optic reflectance probe. Measurements were taken from the bruise and a control area. Software was used to calculate the first derivative at 490 and 480 nm; the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin was calculated using an isobestic point method and a software application converted the scan data into colorimetry data. In addition, data on factors that might be associated with the determination of the age of a bruise: subject age, subject sex, degree of trauma, bruise size, skin color, body build, and depth of bruise were recorded. From 147 subjects, 233 reflectance spectrophotometry scans were obtained for analysis. The age of the bruises ranged from 0.5 to 231.5 h. A General Linear Model analysis method was used. This revealed that colorimetric measurement of the yellowness of a bruise accounted for 13% of the bruise age. By incorporation of the other recorded data (as above), yellowness could predict up to 32% of the age of a bruise-implying that 68% of the variation was dependent on other factors. However, critical appraisal of the model revealed that the colorimetry method of determining the age of a bruise was affected by skin tone and required a measure of the proportion of oxygenated hemoglobin, which is obtained by spectrophotometric methods. Using spectrophotometry, the first derivative at 490 nm alone accounted for 18% of the bruise age estimate. When additional factors (subject sex, bruise depth and oxygenation of hemoglobin) were included in the General Linear Model this increased to 31%-implying that 69% of the variation was dependent on other factors. This indicates that spectrophotometry would be of more use that colorimetry for assessing the age of bruises, but the spectrophotometric method used needs to be refined to provide useful data regarding the estimated age of a bruise. Such refinements might include the use of multiple readings or utilizing a comprehensive mathematical model of the optics of skin.

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