Evaluating the effects of causes of death on postmortem interval estimation by ATR-FTIR spectroscopy

  • Kai Zhang
  • Qi Wang
  • Ruina Liu
  • Xin Wei
  • Zhouru Li
  • Shuanliang FanEmail author
  • Zhenyuan WangEmail author
Original Article


Estimating postmortem interval (PMI) is one of the most challenging tasks in forensic practice due to the effects of many factors. Here, attenuated total reflection Fourier transform infrared (ATR-FTIR) spectroscopy combined with chemometrics was utilized to evaluate the effects of causes of death when estimating PMI and to establish a partial least square (PLS) regression model, which can precisely predict PMI under different causes of death. First, the sensitivities to causes of death (brainstem injury, mechanical asphyxia, and hemorrhage shock) of seven kinds of organs were evaluated based on their degrees of cohesion and separation. Then, the liver was selected as the most sensitive organ to establish a PMI estimation model to compare the predicted deviations from different causes of death. It turns out that the cause of death has no significant effect on estimating PMI. Next, a PLS regression model was built with kidney tissues, which have the lowest sensitivity, and this model showed a satisfactory predictive ability and wide applicability. This study demonstrates the feasibility of using ATR-FTIR spectroscopy in conjunction with chemometrics as a powerful alternative for detecting changes in biochemistry and estimating PMI. A new perspective was also provided for evaluating the effect of causes of death when predicting PMI.


Postmortem interval Cause of death FTIR spectroscopy Chemometrics Partial least-squares 


Funding information

This study was funded by the Council of National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81730056) and the project of Independent Innovative Experiment for Postgraduates in medicine in Xi’an Jiaotong University (Grant No. YJSCX-2018).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

414_2019_2042_MOESM1_ESM.docx (469 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 468 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Forensic Pathology, College of Forensic MedicineXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Forensic MedicineChongqing Medical UniversityChongqingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineXuzhou Medical UniversityXuzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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