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Differences Between Ante-Mortem And Post-Mortem Burns

It will be very difficult to distinguish between ante-mortem and post-mortem burns if the dead body is burnt to ashes. Signs of healing like inflammation and blister formation, which usually causes severe discomfort including pain, make ante-mortem burns different from post-mortem burns.

Post-mortem burns, on the other hand, occur after death and do not have the normal responses of living tissues hence cannot exhibit anything that would seem like healing or any signifying symptoms. Forensic evaluation of burn injuries is very important when it comes to discrimination between ante-mortem and post-mortem cases, which helps determine time when the burns happened and provides legal investigation with useful pieces of evidence for further analysis of the case.

However, some of the key differences between ante-mortem and post-mortem burns are given below:

  • Ante-mortem burns happen while the person is still alive, whereas post-mortem burns occur after the person has died.
  • Ante-mortem burns can progress and change over time due to the body's response to the injury. On the other hand, post-mortem burns do not progress or change since the body's physiological processes have ceased.
  • Ante-mortem burns have the potential to heal, as the body's natural healing mechanisms are still active. Post-mortem burns do not heal because the body's healing processes have stopped. The signs of healing (granulation) are present in ante-mortem burn but absent in post-mortem burn.
  • Ante-mortem burns often show signs of inflammation, blistering, and other acute burn-related changes. Post-mortem burns may lack these signs and appear more uniform and dry.
  • Ante-mortem burns can cause pain and discomfort to the individual, as the nerve endings are still functional. Post-mortem burns do not cause pain since there is no longer any sensory perception.
  • Lines of redness are present in ante-mortem burn but absent in post-mortem burn.
  • There is an increase in enzymes in ante-mortem burn but there is no such increase in post-mortem burn.
  • Carboxy-hemoglobin in blood is present in ante-mortem burn but absent in post-mortem burn.
  • Shoot in the upper respiratory tract is present in ante-mortem burn but absent in post-mortem burn.
  • In burns that occur before death (ante-mortem), the vesicles are filled with fluid containing albumins and chloride. Conversely, in burns that occur after death (post-mortem), the vesicles are filled with air, and any fluid present lacks albumins, chloride, and blood corpuscles.
  • There is an infection in the form of presence of pus in ante-mortem burn but there is no pus in post-mortem burn. If there is any presence of pus, it simply indicates the person has lived for more than 36 hours since the injury.


Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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