Digital image analysis of fingernail colour in cadavers comparing carbon monoxide poisoning to controls

Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology
Neil E I Langlois


Carbon monoxide is a component of motor vehicle exhaust fumes, provided a functional catalytic converter is not present. This gas binds avidly to the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells preventing its oxygen transport function, effectively poisoning the body by starving it of oxygen. In binding to hemoglobin, carbon monoxide forms carboxyhemoglobin, which has a characteristic bright pink color. It has been remarked that the fingernails of victims of carbon monoxide tend to exhibit pink color, otherwise fingernails of deceased bodies tend towards a dark red to blue color. This study sought to objectively determine by using digital image analysis if a color difference occurred between the fingernails of a group of cadavers with carbon monoxide poisoning compared to a group of controls. The fingernails of the carbon monoxide group did tend to be more red than the controls, but due to overlap between the two groups assessment of the fingernails cannot be recommended as a rapid screening test.


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Related Concepts

Poisoning, Illuminating Gas
Carboxyhemoglobin C
Legal Medicine Discipline
Structure of Nail of Toe
Skin Pigmentation
Carbon Monoxide

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