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Forensic radiology makes virtual autopsy a reality

CHICAGO Swiss investigators are partnering the latest in radiologic imaging technology with forensic science to provide a bloodless, minimally invasive method to examine victims for causes of accidental deaths and murders.

In Switzerland, virtual autopsy is already a reality. The University of Berne's Institute of Forensic Medicine, in collaboration with its Institute of Diagnostic Radiology, has performed 100 virtual autopsies, or Virtopsy, in the last three years. Michael Thali, M.D., a board-certified forensic pathologist and project manager for Virtopsy at the University, presented the crime and accident scene investigation technology today at the 89th Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"The virtual autopsy does not destroy key forensic evidence which may be damaged during a classic autopsy," said Dr. Thali, who also has specialized training in radiology. "It can also be used in cultures and situations where autopsy is not tolerated by religion, such as in the traditional Jewish faith, or is rejected by family members. Some people do not like the idea of autopsy."

Virtual autopsy combines computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. The CT images provide information about the general pathology of the body and can generate detailed information about trauma injuries. MR imaging is used to focus on specific areas of the body, providing details about soft tissue, muscles and organs.

To determine the time of death, Virtopsy uses MR spectroscopy a technique that measures metabolites in the brain emerging during post-mortem decomposition.

In cases where a weapon is used, 3-D surface scanning first used by the auto industry to develop and analyze auto parts documents the surface of the body. Using a computer-aided design program, investigators can then compare the virtual model of an injury with the 3-D image of a simulation created by using a similar
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Contact: Doug Dusik
ddusik@rsna.org
630-571-7845
Radiological Society of North America
3-Dec-2003


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