International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 475–482 | Cite as

Differentiation of heroin and cocaine using dual-energy CT—an experimental study

  • Jochen GrimmEmail author
  • Ramona Wudy
  • Edvard Ziegeler
  • Stefan Wirth
  • Michael Uhl
  • Maximilian F. Reiser
  • Michael Scherr
Original Article



To evaluate if heroin and cocaine can be distinguished using dual-energy CT.

Materials and methods

Twenty samples of heroin and cocaine at different concentrations and standardized compression (SC) were scanned in dual-energy mode on a newest generation Dual Energy 64-row MDCT scanner. CT number, spectral graphs, and dual-energy index (DEI) were evaluated. Results were prospectively tested on six original samples from a body packer. Wilcoxon’s test was used for statistical evaluation.


Values are given as median and range. Under SC, the CT number of cocaine samples (−29.87 Hounsfield unit (HU) [−125.85; 16.16 HU]) was higher than the CT number of heroin samples (−184.37 HU [−199.81; −159.25 HU]; p < 0.01). Slope of spectral curves for cocaine was −2.36 HU/keV [−7.15; −0.67 HU/keV], and for heroin, 1.75 HU/keV [1.28; 2.5 HU/keV] (p < 0.01). DEI was 0.0352 [0.0081; 0.0528] for cocaine and significantly higher than for heroin samples (−0.0127 [−0.0097; −0.0159]; p < 0.001). While CT number was inconclusive, all six original packs were correctly classified after evaluation of the spectral curve and DEI. In contrast to the CT number, slope of the spectral curve and DEI were independent of concentration and compression.


The slope of the spectral curve and the DEI from dual-energy CT data can be used to distinguish heroin and cocaine in vitro; these results are independent of compression and concentration in the measured range.


Body packing Dual-energy CT Dual-energy index Material differentiation Illicit drugs 


Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jochen Grimm
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Ramona Wudy
    • 1
  • Edvard Ziegeler
    • 1
  • Stefan Wirth
    • 1
  • Michael Uhl
    • 4
  • Maximilian F. Reiser
    • 1
  • Michael Scherr
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Clinical RadiologyLudwig-Maximilians-University Hospital MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Medical RadiologyUniversity Hospital and University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Center for Legal Medicine Lausanne and GenevaLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Bavarian State Criminal Police OfficeMunichGermany

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