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Image-guided virtual autopsy findings of gunshot victims performed with multi-slice computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging and subsequent correlation between radiology and autopsy findings

Image-guided virtual autopsy findings of gunshot victims performed with multi-slice computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging and subsequent correlation between radiology and autopsy findings

Forensic Science International 138(1-3): 8-16

Because the use of radiology in modern forensic medicine has been, until today, mostly restricted to conventional X-rays, which reduces a 3D body to a 2D projection, a detailed 3D documentation of a gunshot's wound ballistic effects was not possible. The aim of our study was to evaluate whether the progress in imaging techniques over the last years has made it possible to establish an observer-independent and reproducible forensic assessment using multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies for the documentation and analysis of gunshot wounds. The bodies of eight gunshot victims were scanned by MSCT and by MRI; the data of these imaging techniques were post-processed on a workstation, interpreted and subsequently correlated with the findings of classical autopsy. With the spiral CT and MRI examinations and the subsequent 2D multi-planar reformation (MPR) and 3D shaded surface display (SSD) reconstruction, the entire gunshot-created complex skull fractures and brain injuries (such as wound channels and deeply-driven bone splinters) could be documented in complete and graphic detail. CT and MRI also documented vital reaction to the gunshot by demonstrating air emboli in the heart and blood vessels and the classic pattern of blood aspiration to the lung. Gunshot residues deposited within and under the skin were visible. In conclusion, we think that the radiological methods of MSCT and MRI have the potential to become a routine "virtual autopsy" tool in the future. Bullets and relevant histological samples from specific sites then might be won in image-guided minimally invasive fashion via percutaneous biopsy. The rapid application of developing radiological methods may lead to new horizons in forensic documentation and intravital as well as postmortem examination.

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Accession: 035081684

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PMID: 14642714

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