Bone and soft tissue histology: a new approach to determine
characteristics of offending instrument in sharp force injuries
Jean Sébastien Raul
Received: 23 February 2017 /Accepted: 16 May 2017 / Published online: 30 May 2017
Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017
Abstract This paper describes a new approach to determine
characteristics of the implement used to inflict trauma which
involves the histological analysis of exogenous particles.
Based on Locard’sprincipleBevery contact leaves a trace,^
we decided to assess whether histological examination of
bone and soft tissue around a penetrating injury (sharp force
trauma) could provide evidence of the offending implement.
Case reports and experimental studies have demonstrated the
potential of cut mark features in bone to identify the causative
implement and potentially assist in identifying the perpetrator.
Scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy-
dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM/EDS) have previously
been reported to identify exogenous particles from various
implements. In medical research, histological techniques are
used to study the impact of foreign particles in tissues origi-
nating from implants. However, the routine use of histology in
forensic medicine focuses on understanding type and timing
of injuries. Based on three forensic cases, the results presented
in this paper demonstrate that histology offers a cost-efficient
and reliable means to detect foreign particles related to
offending implement and/or to the environment where the
victim was located. The interpretation of histological results
was performed in conjunction with the macroscopic autopsy
findings and anthropological analysis of bone samples.
Keywords Histological techniques
Sharp force injuries
Histology is essential in the practice of forensic pathology to
confirm, complete, or refute macroscopic autopsy findings.
Histology contributes to the assessment of pathological con-
ditions, vitality of lesion, and healing time for fractures [1–3].
In forensic anthropology, bone histology has been used to
estimate age at death, determine paleopathological lesion,
and estimate the postmortem interval [4–6].
Besides the determination of cause and manner of death,
the principle challenge faced by forensic practitioners is the
identification of the implement used to produce the injury. In
sharp force injuries, the possibility of determining class char-
acteristics of the suspected instrument is mainly correlated to
macroscopic examination of cutaneous injury patterns [7–9],
bone analysis [10–13], and sometimes additional means such
as clothing analysis . Some studies report the possibility to
link objects or weapons to the microtraces left behind with
scanning electron microscopy in combination with energy-
dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM/EDS) technique
[15–19] or the opportunity to determine the uniqueness of tool
marks on bone with environmental scanning electron micros-
copy (ESEM) analysis .
Histological techniques are useful for determining the pres-
ence of foreign particles resulting from a variety of contexts
including gunshot wounds (gunshot residue) , medical
intervention (implants, surgical material in tumor) [22–25],
injuries during conflict (blast-penetrating injuries) , and
electrocution (electric burn marks on the skin) .
Considering this potential, we decided to assess whether his-
tological techniques could contribute to identifying exoge-
nous particles left by the implement used to cause the trauma.
The histological findings of bone and soft tissue sampled
on sharp force injuries from three forensic cases are discussed.
A three-step examination was implemented for each case
* Tania Delabarde
Institut Médico-Légal, 2 Place Mazas, 75012 Paris, France
Institut de Médecine Légale, Strasbourg, France
Int J Legal Med (2017) 131:1313–1323