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Child Abuse

Timing of Bruises



I found your web site via the ask an expert link. In answer to my question, the medical expert suggested that a Pathologist might be able to answer the question more fully. So I am posing it to you and asking for your expertise. My question is this: is it possible to project a time of injury using the color of a bruise? I have been told that on a fair skinned baby, if a bruise is bright red, it has been inflicted within a half-hour to 45 minute span. I am trying to find out if bruises allegedly sustained at 1:30 to 1:45 would still be bright red or light red to slightly purple at 3:45 to 4:00 and yellow in color, four hours later. Please include any information that might be helpful to pinpoint the time of injury. Bright red or light red and slightly purple at 3:45 to 4:00 = injury time 1:30 to 1:45 or injury time 2:15 to 3:45 - which is most likely?

Thank you for the expert advise.


The color of a bruise cannot be used to accurately date or time an injury. Although it is true that "fresh" bruises are most often red, raised and tender, there is variation. No one can time a bruise within a specific hour of the day based on the color. 

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Response by:

Robert Shapiro, MD
Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati