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Forensic Sci Int. 1988 Nov;39(2):175-88.

The morphogenesis of electrically and heat-induced dermal changes in pig skin.

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Department of Dermato-venereology, Bispebjerg Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.


In order to establish pathological evidence in dermis for distinguishing between sequelae of electrical torture and those of other superficial injuries, the skin of eleven fully anaesthetized Danish Landrace pigs have been exposed to heat and electrical energy from either 50 Hz alternating current (a.c.) or direct current (d.c.) via 12 mm large contact knobs or via a pointed 0.5 mm large electrode (only 50 Hz a.c.). The lesions have been examined from 1 to 126 days after the injury. While heat lesions exposed to energy lower than 60 joule only gave minor changes, heat lesions exposed to more than 60 joule showed changes in both collagen fibres (basophilic or eosinophilic fibres without any birefringence or coarse cross-striation in polarized light, respectively) and dermal cells (granular cytoplasm). Areas exposed to 50 Hz a.c. via 0.5 mm. electrode showed basophilic collagen fibres and in a few biopsies on day 7 calcium salts on collagen fibres. Using 12 mm large electrodes the changes were minor, but basophilic and eosinophilic collagen fibres with no birefringence or with fine/coarse cross-striation respectively were seen. Even cells with 'vesicular nuclei' were seen on day 1 and 2 after the injury. The changes in the anode area showed resemblance to that of heat lesions (basophilic collagen fibres). Eosinophilic collagen fibres with fine densely spaced cross-striation in polarized light and 'vesicular nuclei' as well as collagen fibres with calcium salts were seen in the cathode lesions. It is concluded that the dermal changes in the cathode area are specific for electrical injury from day 1 to 14. However, earlier studies have demonstrated dermal changes specific for electrical injury at day 0 and the presence of calcified collagen fibres up to 2 months after injury. The dermal changes in anode lesions were non specific and could not be differentiated from those found in heat lesions. Alternating current lesions (50 Hz) were specific from day 1 to day 7, when the pointed electrode was used, but only in a few days when the energy was transferred via the 12-mm electrodes.

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