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Forensic Pathology Tool to Predict Pediatric Skull Fracture Patterns

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2012
Brian J. Powell; Timothy G. Baumer; Nicholas V. Passalacqua; Christina D. Wagner; Roger C. Haut; Todd W. Fenton; King H. Yang
Publication Type
Report (Study/Research)
Grant Number(s)
Given the lack of baseline data that can assist in distinguishing between inflicted and accident-related skull fractures that cause a child's death, a team of forensic anthropologists and biomechanical engineers produced baseline data on pediatric cranial fracture, initiation, propagation, and patterning, using a porcine animal model.
The main goal of the research was to establish a computational-based tool that could be used to determine the input required to generate a specific pattern of fracture on the human pediatric victim. This goal was not achieved; however, a number of important findings on the characteristics of fracture patterns in controlled impacts to the infant piglet cranium will assist in moving closer to this main goal. The experiments show that the response of an infant cranium varies during its developmental stages. The fracture patterns can be altered by impact interface, impact energy, and the degree of head constraint. The most important finding was that fractures of the young cranium can often occur away from the site of impact and produce multiple fractures. These findings can assist in determining many cases of infant abuse by distinguishing inflicted injury from cranial injuries due to falls from short heights. This work lays the foundation for a better understanding and substantiation in current forensic files and may be important in future litigation. Although the studies on a computational-based model indicated that some of the general characteristics of cranial fracturing can be predicted with simplified models, the advanced studies that sought a better understanding of the physics of cranial fracture showed that these mathematically predicted fractures were dependent on local geometry and material properties of the cranial vault, making them subject-specific. Currently, available methods cannot precisely determine these properties for each case, making the model insufficient for producing reliable forensic conclusions. 72 figures, 64 references, and a listing of publications, presentations, and awards associated with dissemination of the findings
Date Created: February 1, 2013