Detection and Visibility of Bruises using Alternate Light: From Science to Practice

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90 Minutes

Originally Aired
April 7, 2021

Katherine Scafide
Katherine Scafide, PhD, RN
Assistant Professor, George Mason University, School of Nursing
Daniel Sheridan
Daniel Sheridan, PhD, RN, FAAN
Instructor, John Hopkins University School of Nursing, President, JS Net Associates, LLC

Bruising is a very common type of soft tissue injury noted on victims experiencing intimate partner violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and vulnerable adult abuse. The accurate forensic identification and documentation of these injuries is essential for proper medical treatment and is vital evidence for the criminal justice system. Unidentified injuries can lead to a disparity in the forensic investigation of victims, especially those with darker skin; who lack the ability to communicate; or who delay seeking treatment. Research supports the detection and documentation of injuries to improve victim participation within the criminal justice process. Despite the Department of Justice’s recommendations, alternate light is not widely used in forensic examinations due to a dearth of research supporting its use and knowledge deficits of the science of alternate light.

In this presentation, the presenters will review the science behind alternate light and bruising. They will also present the major findings of a recent National Institute of Justice funded, multi-site, randomized controlled trial comparing alternate light to white light (i.e., normal examination lighting) in the visualization of bruises. The knowledge generated from this study objectively demonstrates that using alternate light improves the detection and visibility of potential bruises, which increases the scientific and evidentiary validity of alternate light findings.


As a result of this webinar, participants will be better able to:

  • Describe alternate light, its characteristics, and its behavior in response to potential bruises.
  • Summarize the available research, including a recently completed study, on the effectiveness of alternate light as a tool for improving bruise detection.
  • Recognize considerations for the clinical application of alternate light, particularly in the areas of forensic photography and medico-legal interpretation.

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