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Forensic Sci Int. 2014 Nov;244:e25-9. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2014.08.021. Epub 2014 Aug 30.

Cranial trauma and the assessment of posttraumatic survival time.

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Forensic Anthropology Research Centre, Department of Anatomy, University of Pretoria, South Africa. Electronic address:
Department of Pathology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Anatomy and Embryology, Leiden University Medical Center, The Netherlands.
Department of Anatomy, Embryology and Physiology, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Assessment of trauma on skeletal remains can be very difficult, especially when it comes to the estimation of posttraumatic survival time in partially healed lesions. The ability to reliably estimate the time an individual has survived after sustaining an injury is especially important in cases of child abuse and torture, but can also aid in determining the association between an injury and eventual death. Here a case from South Africa is reported, where the skeletal remains of an unknown individual were found with cranial and scapular fractures. These fractures all presented with macroscopic features indicative of healing. Using recently published data on the timing of fractures by De Boer et al., the two sets of cranial trauma and the scapular fracture were assessed by means of radiology, histology and microCT scanning. This was primarily done in order to obtain more information on the events surrounding the death of this individual, but also to assess the usability of the published methods on cranial fractures. It was found that the initial trauma was most likely sustained at least two weeks before death, whilst a neurosurgical procedure was performed at least one week before death. It seems that cranial fractures, especially if stable, may show some different healing features than postcranial fractures. The individual has since been identified, but unfortunately as is often the case in South Africa, limited information is available and the medical records could not be found.


Bone repair; Healing features; Posttraumatic survival time; Skeletal trauma; Trauma dating

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