The wounded man (Hans von Gersdorff)

Source: Wikipedia

Read a Wellcome Library blog post about the history of the 'wound man' in medical texts here.


Any doctor may be asked to examine a person who has been wounded, particularly in the Emergency Unit/ Trauma Unit setting.

In addition, forensic physicians and pathologists are frequently required to examine wounds in both the living and the dead.

The identification and description of wounds may have serious medico-legal implications at a later stage - often after some considerable time has passed since the wounding.

It is therefore essential that different types of wounds can be correctly identified and described, with a full description being made in notes taken at the time of, or shortly after the examination ('contemporaneous notes').

Studies have shown that doctors incorrectly identify common wounds and injuries (Jones 2003; Reijnders et al 2005; Bajanowski et al 2001), and even where they do correctly identify a wound type, they ascribe an incorrect 'mechanism' to that wound (i.e. incorrect differentiation between blunt force and sharp force injury).

In general terms (lay and medical, but not legal), 'wound' and 'injury' are used interchangeably, and are used to describe tissue damage caused by;


wound classification


There are several ways in which wounds can be classified. Surgeons, for example, may classify wounds into ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ or ‘tidy’ and ‘untidy’ (Russell et al 2000).

'Tidy wounds' are those made by sharp instruments and contain no dead tissue, and which can be closed and allowed to heal by primary intention.

'Untidy wounds', however, such as those caused by crushing or tearing mechanisms often contain devitalised tissue that must be debrided (i.e. surgically removed) in order for healing to take place (after closing the wound or allowing it to heal by secondary intention).

It is essential in a medico-legal arena that the correct nomenclature is used to describe wounds, and the following sections will cover each of these wound types in detail.

Wounds can also be categorised by the manner of infliction, via the WHO International Classification of Disease (ICD) ‘E’ codes, such as ‘accidental’ or ‘suicidal’ (Saukko and Knight 2004). (See also ICD Chapter XIX codes for injury, poisoning and 'external causes'.)


wounds and injuries mindmap


The following mindmap provides an overview of the forensic classification of wounds and injuries for those who find seeing the 'big picture' useful.


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If you are a UK medical student, are you taught the forensic aspects of wounds and injuries?

Yes (106) 66%

No (55) 34%

Total votes: 161

Wounds and injuries


Wounds and injuries teaching at medical school

Are medical students taught about the forensic aspects of wounds and injuries at medical school?

I would be interested to know which medical schools offer this sort of forensic education, in which year(s), and in what sort of settings (e.g. in the emergency department, lecture theater, mortuary, or small group setting etc).

Let me know your thoughts on this issue.


Re: Wounds and injuries teaching at medical school

I'm from Sri Lanka, and from the Faculty of medicine, University of Kelaniya. We had a separate forensic module in which we had a lecture series and 7-8 tutorials covering all the main topics and a museum class. we also have a two-week rotation in forensic medicine where we have classes on several important subjects such as medico-legal history and examination, sexual abuse, alcohol intoxication, bones(in the museum), RTAs, category of hurt etc. with demonstrations of instruments where relevant. we also must assist one autopsy, clerk one autopsy and observe at least 3 autopsies during the time period. so it's a pretty strenuous(especially the autopsy part) but comprehensive training and more than adequate for a medical undergraduate in my opinion. p.s.- thankfully the forensic department is the most cheerful and enthusiastic department we came across, to stay relevant according to them.;)

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