Thermal Injury

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Abstract

Trauma from fires, electrical sources, and blasts is manifest as thermal injury. Explosions can also indirectly injure the body (“blast effects”). All manners of death are possible in cases of thermal injury. Victims—dead at the scene—can sustain highly destructive trauma (e.g., charring, dismemberment), presenting a daunting challenge to the pathologist in determining identification and cause of death, collecting evidence, and distinguishing antemortem injury from postmortem thermal artifact. Survivors who die in the hospital succumb to a host of complications. These delayed deaths exemplify the concept of “immediate” and “proximate” cause of death.