Images in Forensic Thanatology

  • Magdy Kharoshah
  • Dalia Alsaif
  • Marwa Al Bayat
  • Ghada Al Shamsi
  • Kholoud Alsowayigh


It is universally acknowledged that imaging techniques occupy a prominent role in forensic medicine. Antemortem and postmortem radiograph comparison is a common procedure carried out by forensic anthropologists and odonatologists to verify the identity of human remains. X-rays, in particular, comprise an essential component of the majority of medicolegal investigations, where they are used to detect foreign bodies and air embolism, as well as provide evidence of fractures and other forms of injury. In addition, whole-body radiography offers crucial assistance in the early detection of potentially dangerous objects, such as unexploded incendiary devices or bullets that have not been activated which, if undiscovered, could result in the forensic investigator sustaining significant injury. Radiological studies perform a vital function in diagnosing intentional injury across the age span. Furthermore, the requirement to provide noninvasive procedures is escalating. This need arises in specific situations where, for cultural or religious reasons, some individuals are opposed to more traditional postmortem examinations.


Forensic radiology Forensic thanatology Identification Asphyxia Drowning Child abuse Motor vehicle collision Body packers Firearm injuries 


  1. 1.
    Thali MJ, Vock P (2003) Role and techniques in forensic imaging. In: Payne- James J, Busutil A, Smock W (eds) Forensic medicine: clinical and pathological aspect. Greenwich Medical Media, London, pp 731–746Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rutty GN, Jeffery AJ, Raj V, Morgan B (2010) The use of postmortem computed tomography in the investigation of intentional neonatal upper airway obstruction: an illustrated case. Int J Legal Med 124:641–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Iino M, O’Donnell C (2010) Postmortem computed tomography findings of upper airway obstruction by food. J Forensic Sci 55:1251–1258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kempter M, Ross S, Spendlove D, Flach PM, Preiss U, Thali MJ, Bolliger SA (2009) Post-mortem imaging of laryngohyoid fracture in strangulation incidents: first results. Legal Med 11:267–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Yen K, Thali MJ, Aghayev E, Jackowski C, Schweitzer W, Boesch C, Vock P, Dirnhofer R, Sonnenschein M (2005) Strangulation signs: initial correlation of MRI, MSCT, and forensic neck findings. J Magn Reson Imaging 22:501–510CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Hayashi T, Hartwig S, Tsokos M, Oesterhelweg L (2014) Postmortem multislice computed tomography (pmMSCT) imaging of hangman’s fracture. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 10:3–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Benali L, Gromb S, Bou C (2013) Post-mortem imaging in traffic fatalities: from autopsy to reconstruction of the scene using freely available software. Int J Legal Med 127:1045–1049CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Moskała A, Woźniak K, Kluza P, Romaszko K, Lopatin O (2016) The importance of post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) in confrontation with conventional forensic autopsy of victims of motorcycle accidents. Legal Med 18:25–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Sochor MR, Trowbridge MJ, Boscak A, Maino JC, Maio RF (2008) Postmortem computed tomography as an adjunct to autopsy for analyzing fatal motor vehicle crash injuries: results of a pilot study. J Trauma 65:659–665CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kubat B, Korthout T, van Ingen G, Rietveld LAC, de Bakker HM (2014) Radiological analysis of hand and foot injuries after small aircraft crashes. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 10:351–356CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Folio RL, Harcke HT, Luzi SA (2009) Aircraft mishap investigation with radiology-assisted autopsy: helicopter crash with control injury. Aviat Space Environ Med 80(4):400–404CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ross AH, Juarez CA (2016) Skeletal and radiological manifestations of child abuse: implications for study in past populations. Clin Anat 29:844–853CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dedouit F, Mallinger B, Guilbeau-Frugier C, Rougé D, Rousseau H, Telmon N (2011) Lethal visceral traumatic injuries secondary to child abuse: a case of practical application of autopsy, radiological and microscopic studies. Forensic Sci Int 206:e62–e66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Kempa AM, Butlerb A, Morrisb S, Mannc M, Kempa KW, Rolfea K, Siberta JR, Maguire S (2006) Which radiological investigations should be performed to identify fractures in suspected child abuse? Clin Radiol 61:723–736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Dolinak D, Matches E, Lew E (2005) Forensic pathology: principles and practice. Elsevier/Academic Press, Burlington, MA. ISBN: 0-12-219951-0Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Flach PM, Ross SG, Ampanozi G, Ebert L, Germerott T, Hatch GM, Thali MJ, Patak MA (2012) “Drug mules” as a radiological challenge: sensitivity and specificity in identifying internal cocaine in body packers, body pushers and body stuffers by computed tomography, plain radiography and Lodox. Eur J Radiol 81:2518–2526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Reginelli A, Russo A, Urraro F, Maresca D, Martiniello C, D’Andrea A, Brunese L, Pinto A (2015) Imaging of body packing: errors and medico-legal issues. Abdom Imaging 40:2127–2142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Lee K, Koehn M, Rastegar RF, van Hoorn F, Roy E, Berger FH, Nicolaou S (2012) Body packers: the ins and outs of imaging. Can Assoc Radiol J 63:318–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Berger FH, Nieboer KH, Goh GS, Pinto A, Scaglione M (2015) Body packing: a review of general background, clinical and imaging aspects. Radiol Med 120:118–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Niewiarowski S, Gogbashian A, Afaq A, Kantor R, Win Z (2010) Abdominal X-ray signs of intra-intestinal drug smuggling. J Forensic Legal Med 17:198–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Schulz B, Grossbach A, Gruber-Rouh T, Zangos S, Vogl TJ, Eichler K (2014) Body packers on your examination table: how helpful are plain X-ray images? A definitive low-dose CT protocol as a diagnosis tool for body packers. Clin Radiol 69:525–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bin Abdul Rashid SN, Rahim ASA, Thali MJ, Flach PM (2013) Death by ‘ice’: fatal methamphetamine intoxication of a body packer case detected by postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) and validated by autopsy. Forensic Sci Med Pathol 9:82–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Shahnazi M, Sanei Taheri M, Pourghorban R (2011) Body packing and its radiologic manifestations: a review article. Iran J Radiol 8(4):205–210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cherry D, Runyan C, Butts J (2001) A population based study of unintentional firearm fatalities. Inj Prev 7:62–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Andenmatten MA, Thali MJ, Kneubuehl BP, Oesterhelweg L, Ross S, Spendlove D, Bolliger SA (2008) Gunshot injuries detected by post-mortem multislice computed tomography (MSCT): a feasibility study. Legal Med 10:287–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Brogdan BG (1998) Forensic radiology. CRC Press, Boca Raton. isbn:0-8493-8105-3CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kirchhoff SM, Scaparra EF, Grimm J, Scherr M, Graw M, Reiser MF, Peschel O (2016) Postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) and autopsy in deadly gunshot wounds—a comparative study. Int J Legal Med 130:819–826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Maiese A, Gitto L, De Matteis A, Panebianco V, Bolino G (2014) Post mortem computed tomography: useful or unnecessary in gunshot wounds deaths? Two case reports. Legal Med 16:357–363CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Jeffery AJ, Rutty GN, Robinson C, Morgan B (2008) Computed tomography of projectile injuries. Clin Radiol 63(10):1160–1166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Lü Derwald S, Zinka B (2008) Fatal diving accidents: two case reports and an overview of the role of forensic examinations. Forensic Sci Int 180:e1–e5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Carson WK, Mecklenburg B (2005) The role of radiology in dive-related disorders. Mil Med 170(1):57–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Wheen LC, Williams MP (2009) Post-mortems in recreational scuba diver deaths: the utility of radiology. J Forensic Legal Med 16:273–276CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Oliver J, Lyons TJ, Harle R (1999) The role of computed tomography in the diagnosis of arterial gas embolism in fatal diving accidents in Tasmania. Australas Radiol 43:37–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Ozdoba C, Weis J, Plattner T, Dirnhofer R, Yen K (2005) Fatal scuba diving incident with massive gas embolism in cerebral and spinal arteries. Neuroradiology 47:411–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Plaetsen SV, De Letter E, Piette M, Van Parys G, Casselman JW, Verstraete K (2015) Post-mortem evaluation of drowning with whole body CT. Forensic Sci Int 249:35–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Kawasumi Y, Kawabata T, Sugai Y, Usui A, Hosokai Y, Sato M, Saito H, Ishibashi T, Hayashizaki Y, Funayama M (2012) Assessment of the relationship between drowning and fluid accumulation in the paranasal sinuses on post-mortem computed tomography. Eur J Radiol 81:3953–3955CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Kawasumi Y, Usui A, Sato Y, Sato Y, Daigaku N, Hosokai Y, Hayashizaki Y, Funayama M, Ishibashi T (2016) Distinction between salt water drowning and freshwater drowning by assessment of sinus fluid on postmortem computed tomography. Eur Soc Radiol 26:1186–1190CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magdy Kharoshah
    • 1
  • Dalia Alsaif
    • 1
  • Marwa Al Bayat
    • 1
  • Ghada Al Shamsi
    • 1
  • Kholoud Alsowayigh
    • 2
  1. 1.Dammam Forensic Medicine CenterDammamKingdom of Saudi Arabia
  2. 2.Jeddah Forensic Medicine CenterJeddahKingdom of Saudi Arabia

Personalised recommendations