Chop wounds are produced by heavy instruments with a cutting edge, e.g., axes, machetes, and meat cleavers. The presence of an incised wound of the skin, with an underlying comminuted fracture or deep groove in the bone, indicates that one is dealing with a chopping weapon (Figure 7.31). When the perpetrator pulls out a weapon that has embedded itself in the bone, he might give it a sharp twist, fracturing or breaking off the adjacent bone. In tangential wounds of the skull, chopping instruments may cut off disks of bone.
While most chop wounds appear incised, when there is a combination of cutting and crushing, they can have both incised and lacerated characteristics.
Chopping weapons cutting through bone can impart characteristic stri-ations on the bone unique to each type of weapon. Humphrey and Hutchin-son evaluated hacking trauma on bones produced by cleavers, machetes and axes.11 Hacking blows produce wounds in bone characterized by at least one smooth, flat side with, in the case of angled impacts, fracturing of the other side. Cleavers produce clean, narrow wounds without fractures at the entry site; machetes wider, less-clean wounds with small fragments of bone at the entry site and fractures in the bed of the cut. Axes make crushing, fragmenting wounds with fractures. Microscopic examination of these wounds by Tucker et al. found that cleavers produce thin, fine striations that are sharp and distinct.12 Striations produced by machetes were more pronounced but coarse and less distinct. Axe wounds showed no striations on the bone. The authors thought that microspcopic analysis of hacking wounds of bone could disting-ish different classes of weapons. They also saw a potential to identify specific weapons. Boat or airplane propellers can produce chop-like wounds of the body. On occasion, a body will be pulled from the water with multiple chop wounds (Figure 7.32). The question then arises as to whether these are ante-or postmortem. If, on examination of the site of injury, there is hemorrhage in the soft tissue, one can be fairly sure that this is an antemortem injury. Absence of bleeding into a chop wound does not prove that the injury was postmortem, because prolonged immersion in water might result in the
leaching out of the blood from the wound, giving the appearance of a postmortem injury.
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