Dermatological Conditions Mimicking Trauma

Jordan Bradford, Lawrence A. Mark, Joseph A. Prahlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


A number of dermatological findings may mimic inflicted injury in forensic investigations and lead to false conclusions about the circumstances, manner, and mechanism of death. At times, organic dermatological phenomena involving the skin, hair, and nails are initially misidentified as trauma, sexual abuse, or burns. History, autopsy, and histopathology aid in correctly diagnosing these dermatological findings. Some of the resulting diagnoses include pruritic, ulcerating, and infectious skin diseases, skin disease localized to the anogenital area, malignancy, medication-induced dermatoses, alopecia, and age-related skin changes. We report several cases where police and/or the coroner initially attributed a finding to trauma, but it was subsequently determined that the finding represented a dermatological disease by the forensic pathologist upon autopsy. In addition, for completeness, we include examples of other dermatological conditions that may mimic trauma. Forensic investigators should maintain a broad differential for abnormal skin, hair, and nail findings when there is an incomplete or incongruent history surrounding a victim's death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)468-476
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Forensic Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Abuse
  • Autopsy
  • Dermatology
  • Forensic pathology
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Dermatological Conditions Mimicking Trauma'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this