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Characterization of Lesions in Hanging Deaths

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Hanging is a common method of committing suicide and a routine task in medico-legal autopsies. The hanging mark is the most relevant external sign and its characteristics are well known, but, for unknown reasons, there are major differences in reports on internal findings. We retrospectively studied 228 consecutive cases of hanging deaths. A complete standard autopsy was performed for every case. We investigated the association between the characteristics of the hanging mark and the frequency of bone, cartilage, soft tissue, and vascular injuries with the mode of suspension. Most cases (75.3%) presented some kind of bone or cartilage fracture, but these were unrelated to any of the variables studied. Vascular lesions are clearly more infrequent: intimal injuries were found in the carotid artery (9.1%), the jugular vein (2.2%), and ruptures of the carotid adventitial layer (21.7%). These could be partially associated with the use of a hard fixed noose and body weight.

Keywords: asphyxia; autopsy; death; forensic science; hanging deaths; neck injury; suicide

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Pathology and Forensic Science, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, C /San Francisco s/n, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 2: Institute of Legal Medicine, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, C/ San Francisco s/n, 15782 Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 3: Institute of Legal Medicine of Galicia, Edificio Juzgados, C/ Viena s/n, 15703 Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 4: National Institute of Legal Medicine of Portugal, Largo da Sé Nova, 3000-213 Coimbra, Portugal.

Publication date: May 1, 2008


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