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Application of Bone Fractography to a Medical Examiner Sample: A Case Series

Jennifer C. Love, Angi M. Christensen


This case study review assesses the applicability of forensic fractography of bone to forensic casework through the evaluation of four blunt-trauma cases. The objectives were to determine (1) whether fractographic features are readily identifiable in real-world trauma scenarios and (2) whether the fractographic analysis corresponds to traditional anthropological fracture pattern analysis. Fractography is the study of fracture surface features and their relationship to crack propagation. Recently, the diagnostic value and expression variation of fractographic features in bone were evaluated and found to be informative on samples derived from controlled, experimentally induced fractures created under unidirectional force (Christensen et al. 2018). Fractures occurring during life events and examined in forensic contexts may be more complex than experimentally induced fractures. For this case study series, fractography is applied to specimens from four cases previously received for anthropology consultation in a medical examiner setting. For fractures located in areas of thick cortical bone, interpretation of fractographic features was consistent with the previous anthropological and autopsy soft-tissue findings. However, in one case where fractures were located in areas of thin cortical bone, fewer surface features were observed and the fractography analysis was inconclusive. The results of this case series show that fractography is applicable to fractures that occur under complex scenarios, and also confirms previous suggestions that it may have greater utility for bones with greater fracture surface area.


forensic anthropology, blunt trauma, fracture analysis, fractography

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