Description of wounds
It is important to describe wounds in detail. If
possible, photos of wounds should be included, but then a colour chart should
also be added so that colour changes can be judged objectively; sketches are
The following must be indicated:
The number of wounds.
The time when the wound was inflicted. Except if the contrary is
indicated, it is usually assumed that the wounds occurred ante mortem. However,
if it is possible that a wound may have occurred in the post-mortem period, it
must be mentioned. This type of situation often occurs with drowning victims,
where injuries due to propellers of boats as well as rocks may develop in the
The precise location of every wound, measured from fixed reference
points (eg from the middle of the body in the horizontal level and specific
vertical points - like
the height above the heel, level of the nipples, level of the eyes, etc). It is
also important to remember that the wounds are described with the body in the
anatomical position, that is in an upright position with the palms of the hands
facing forward. The wound tract of a stab wound therefore does not necessarily
represent the position of the body at the time of the stabbing. (The same
principle applies when the body is hit by a bullet.)
The shape of every wound. For instance, is the abrasion an oval shape
with accumulation of skin on the one side? Are both corners of the stab wound
sharp (pointed), as those made by a knife with a double-edged blade?
The size of the wound. Abrasions and contusions have two dimensions.
Lacerated wounds and incised wounds have only one dimension, namely length,
even if the wound is gaping. Stab wounds also have a depth measurement.
Any additional wounds, for instance abrasions or contusions surrounding
a laceration wound.
The estimated age of the wound. It is important to decide whether the
wound is still fresh or whether it shows signs of healing.
Any signs of complications, for instance inflammation or abscess
Any signs of medical treatment, for example sutures
In the case of a stab wound, the direction of
the wound tract, the depth as well as any important structures involved, must
be mentioned. Any other additional factors of importance, including the
impression sometimes seen in contusions and abrasions, or the presence of
foreign material in the wound, must be mentioned. It is important to examine
the entire body, also concealed areas. Some pathologists will even indicate on
the sketch with a tick mark that they have examined the part in question and
found no wounds.
The distribution of wounds can be of assistance
to reconstruct the scenario. Contusions and abrasions over the posterior
aspects of the forearms are often seen when the victim tries to protect his
head by folding the arms over the head (self-defence wounds). Sometimes incised
wounds of the hands can be seen if the victim tried to grab the knife from the
assailant. Tentative wounds in cases of suicide have already been mentioned.