Forensics go high-tech with CT autopsies

November 27, 2007

CHICAGO - Radiologists are investigating the use of computed tomography (CT) as a tool for civilian medical examiners' autopsies in the United States. According to findings presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), CT autopsy has the potential to replace conventional autopsy in determining the cause of certain accidental deaths.

"CT is a sensitive imaging tool for detecting injuries and cause of death in victims of blunt trauma," said Barry Daly, M.D., professor of radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore. "When there are major injuries, such as those resulting from a motor vehicle accident, CT may provide enough information to enable a conventional autopsy to be avoided altogether."

All states are required by law to perform an autopsy in cases of sudden and unexplained deaths. Of the 8,000 such deaths referred to the chief medical examiner of the state of Maryland last year, approximately one-half required full autopsy.

CT autopsy compares favorably to conventional autopsy in several ways. In cases of suspicious death, the noninvasive procedure does not damage or destroy key forensic evidence, as can happen during a conventional autopsy. In addition, CT can be used in situations where autopsy may be prohibited by religious or cultural beliefs. CT autopsy is considerably less expensive than conventional autopsy and can be performed in a fraction of the time. A forensic medical examiner requires several hours to conduct a full autopsy, while multi-detector CT scanning and interpretation can be completed in about 30 minutes.

In Dr. Daly's study, 20 autopsies were performed using whole-body multi-detector CT at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Interpretations of the CT scans by two radiologists were compared with the results of a conventional autopsy performed on each body by state forensic medical examiners. Included were 14 victims of blunt trauma and six victims of a penetrating wound made either by a knife or ballistic weapon.

In all 14 blunt trauma cases and five of the six penetrating wounds, CT accurately identified the cause of death. The radiologists and forensic medical examiners evaluated the CT findings as comparable to conventional autopsy in 13 of the 14 blunt trauma cases and as a helpful adjunct in five of the six penetrating wound cases. In the study, CT was able to localize rapidly all 26 major ballistic fragments recovered from the victims during conventional autopsy.

"Autopsy is mandatory in deaths involving gunshot wounds, but CT can serve as a powerful adjunct to the conventional exam," Dr. Daly said. "Performing CT imaging first may speed up a conventional autopsy, especially when it comes to locating ballistic fragments, which are so important to criminal investigations."

In addition, CT was more sensitive than conventional autopsy in identifying air embolism, an often undetected important contributing factor in fatal trauma.

While CT has previously been used in autopsies of American soldiers and in a few countries outside the U.S., the technology is only now generating strong interest within the nation's forensic community.

"Although these preliminary results are promising, more research is needed to show that CT could be widely used within the U.S. medical examiners system," Dr. Daly said.
-end-
Co-authors are C.W. Sliker, M.D., D. Zulauf, R.N., J.L. Titus, M.D., P.A. Shah, M.D., M. Ripple, M.D., Z. Ali, M.D., and D. Fowler, M.D.

Note: Copies of RSNA 2007 news releases and electronic images will be available online at RSNA.org/press07 beginning Monday, Nov. 26.

RSNA is an association of more than 41,000 radiologists, radiation oncologists, medical physicists and related scientists committed to excellence in patient care through education and research. The Society is based in Oak Brook, Ill. (RSNA.org)

Editor's note: The data in these releases may differ from those in the printed abstract and those actually presented at the meeting, as researchers continue to update their data right up until the meeting. To ensure you are using the most up-to-date information, please call the RSNA Newsroom at (312) 949-3233.

Radiological Society of North America

Related Computed Tomography Articles from Brightsurf:

Prehistoric shark hid its largest teeth
Some, if not all, early sharks that lived 300 to 400 million years ago not only dropped their lower jaws downward but rotated them outwards when opening their mouths.

Dynamic full-field optical coherence tomography: 3D live-imaging of retinal organoids
Optical coherence tomography offers astounding opportunities to image the complex structure of living tissue but lacks functional information.

Cryo-electron tomography reveals uromodulin's role in urinary tract infection protection
Free-flowing filaments of Uromodulin protect against urinary tract infections (UTIs) by duping potentially harmful bacteria to attach to their fishbone-like molecular architecture - rather than to sensitive urinary tract tissues - before being flushed out of the body during urination, researchers report.

Tomography studies of coins shed light on the history of Volga Bulgaria
Kazan Federal University, Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Dubna, Russia), and Khalikov Institute of Archeology (Tatarstan Academy of Sciences, Kazan, Russia) are working together to study the physical properties of the coins found on the territory of former Volga Bulgaria.

COVID-19 news from Annals of Internal Medicine
In this Ideas and Opinions piece from the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, the authors discuss the findings of early studies that addressed the use of chest computed tomography for the detection of COVID-19.

Scientists pair machine learning with tomography to learn about material interfaces
Researchers have put a new technique based on machine learning to work uncovering the secrets of buried interfaces and edges in a material.

A convex-optimization-based quantum process tomography method for reconstructing quantum channels
Researchers from SJTU have developed a convex-optimization-based quantum process tomography method for reconstructing quantum channels, and have shown the validity to seawater channels and general channels, enabling a more precise and robust estimation of the elements of the process matrix with less demands on preliminary resources.

Faster than ever -- neutron tomography detects water uptake by roots
The high-speed neutron tomography developed at HZB generates a complete 3D image every 1.5 seconds and is thus seven times faster than before.

Staging β-amyloid pathology with amyloid positron emission tomography
This multicenter study used in vivo β-amyloid cerebrospinal fluid, a biomarker of Alzheimer disease, and positron emission tomography findings to track progression of Alzheimer disease over six years among study participants.

NLST follow up reaffirms that low dose CT reduces lung cancer mortality
The authors of the National Lung Cancer Screening Trial report on an extended analysis of the patient cohort that was followed up on after the 2011 study was published.

Read More: Computed Tomography News and Computed Tomography Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.