, Volume 28, Issue 8, pp 594-596

Extracranial soft-tissue swelling: a normal postmortem radiographic finding or a sign of trauma?

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Abstract

Objective. To determine if extracranial soft-tissue swelling is an expected postmortem finding or a sign of trauma. Materials and methods. Extracranial soft-tissue thickness was measured at 5 standardized locations on postmortem skull films obtained of 18 infants with no evidence of trauma on autopsy. The same measurements were performed on the skull films of 100 living children, all less than 3 years old and without clinical history of trauma. Results. Extracranial soft tissues measured only slightly greater in the postmortem group than on films of living children; however, the difference did achieve statistical significance. Conclusion. Minimal extracranial soft-tissue swelling is a normal finding on a postmortem skeletal survey. The presence of substantial or asymmetric extracranial soft-tissue swelling should be viewed with suspicion for trauma.

Received: 17 December 1997 Accepted: 16 March 1998