, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 273-282
Date: 18 Aug 2007

Virtual autopsy using imaging: bridging radiologic and forensic sciences. A review of the Virtopsy and similar projects

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Abstract

The transdisciplinary research project Virtopsy is dedicated to implementing modern imaging techniques into forensic medicine and pathology in order to augment current examination techniques or even to offer alternative methods. Our project relies on three pillars: three-dimensional (3D) surface scanning for the documentation of body surfaces, and both multislice computed tomography (MSCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to visualise the internal body. Three-dimensional surface scanning has delivered remarkable results in the past in the 3D documentation of patterned injuries and of objects of forensic interest as well as whole crime scenes. Imaging of the interior of corpses is performed using MSCT and/or MRI. MRI, in addition, is also well suited to the examination of surviving victims of assault, especially choking, and helps visualise internal injuries not seen at external examination of the victim. Apart from the accuracy and three-dimensionality that conventional documentations lack, these techniques allow for the re-examination of the corpse and the crime scene even decades later, after burial of the corpse and liberation of the crime scene. We believe that this virtual, non-invasive or minimally invasive approach will improve forensic medicine in the near future.