European Radiology

, Volume 23, Issue 7, pp 1829–1835 | Cite as

Post-mortem computed tomography compared to forensic autopsy findings: a French experience

  • Isabelle Le Blanc-LouvryEmail author
  • Sophie Thureau
  • Cathia Duval
  • Frédérique Papin-Lefebvre
  • Jacques Thiebot
  • Jean Nicolas Dacher
  • Cyril Gricourt
  • Emmanuel Touré
  • Bernard Proust
Computed Tomography



The principal aim of our study was to establish concordance between post-mortem CT (PMCT) and forensic standard autopsy (SA) in detecting lesions according to different anatomical regions. A secondary aim was to determine the efficacy of PMCT in showing lethal lesions.


PMCTs were compared with autopsies in 236 cadavers in different contexts of death. PMCT findings were assessed by two independent radiologists.


Concordance between PMCT and autopsy was almost perfect in showing skull, basal skull and hyoid bone fractures as well as in detecting facial, vertebral or pelvic fractures. Both examinations were discordant in demonstrating some intracranial injuries, vascular or organ wounds (more findings showed by autopsy), as well in showing free air in anatomical cavities (more findings detected by PMCT). Moreover, PMCT was effective in determining lethal lesions in the context of craniofacial trauma or after a gunshot wound. Concordance between the findings of the two radiologists was almost perfect for each type of lesion.


PMCT could be considered as effective as SA in determining the cause of death in certain traumatic events. It was also effective in showing lethal lesions and could be a useful tool in reducing the number of SA.

Key Points

Post-mortem CT is increasingly performed as an alternative/adjunct to formal autopsy.

More modern CT systems provide greater anatomical scope.

PMCT can usually determine the cause of most deaths following trauma.

Prospective studies are still required to establish an algorithm for forensic CT.


Post-mortem CT Autopsy Cause of death Prospective studies Diagnostic tool 



The authors are most grateful to Richard Medeiros, Rouen University Hospital Medical Editor, for his valuable editing of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© European Society of Radiology 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabelle Le Blanc-Louvry
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sophie Thureau
    • 1
  • Cathia Duval
    • 2
  • Frédérique Papin-Lefebvre
    • 3
  • Jacques Thiebot
    • 2
  • Jean Nicolas Dacher
    • 2
  • Cyril Gricourt
    • 1
  • Emmanuel Touré
    • 1
  • Bernard Proust
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Forensic MedicineRouen University HospitalRouen CedexFrance
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyRouen University HospitalRouen CedexFrance
  3. 3.Department of Forensic MedicineCaen University HospitalCaenFrance

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