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Pseudo-Stab Wounds: Putrefactive Dehiscence of Remote Surgical Incisions Masquerading as Stab Wounds

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Artifacts due to decomposition can be mistaken for antemortem injury leading to an incorrect suspicion of foul play. We describe an instance of postmortem wound dehiscence that mimicked antemortem stab wounds. A man with a history of colon cancer and substance abuse was found dead. There were advanced putrefactive changes and multiple defects of the anterior torso that resembled stab wounds. Subsequent investigation revealed that 11 months earlier, he had a laparoscopic-assisted colon resection that involved surgical incisions corresponding in location and size to the above defects. Putrefactive gases may cause bloating of the body. This distension may cause recent and remote healed incisions to dehisce. Correlation of these “defects” at autopsy with the antemortem clinical history is crucial in determining their etiology.

Keywords: artifact; decomposition; dehiscence; forensic pathology; forensic science; putrefaction; stab wounds

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2009.01121.x

Affiliations: New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner and Department of Forensic Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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