Say Goodbye to the Days of Slice and Dice

by MSO

Scientists can now perform autopsies virtually saving time, money and mess.

A virtual autopsy is a new method of performing human autopsies. It was developed by scientists in Sweden and allows doctors and forensic experts to examine murder victims without even touching them. The virtual autopsy keeps a permanent record of bruises and wounds long after flesh has decayed. A virtual autopsy can see things that are difficult to discover in a conventional autopsy.

Real samples are hard to transport between pathologists, and therefore make it difficult to communicate with one and other. The new virtual method makes it much easier for them to share digital images and store them for future studies.

This virtual autopsy is possible with the use of a Computer Tomography unit and a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit to obtain a detailed view of a body. The MRI images and the detailed X-rays are combined to create a full three-dimensional view of the body.

A traditional hands-on autopsy takes someone with a strong stomach. The dead body is laid face-up on a steel table, where a forensic expert, makes a Y-shaped incision down the chest and under each side of the rib cage. The skull is sawed off, and each organ is removed and weighed. All injuries and foreign objects, such as bullets, are removed, recorded and saved as evidence. After the examiner has gathered all the information the organs are put back into the body, which is then sewn shut. A full autopsy takes about an hour.

For pathologists, a virtual autopsy will speed up actual autopsies. It is easy to see a bullet hole as an entry point, but once the lead enters the body a bullet can ricochet off bones and land in an unexpected area. A virtual autopsy would make finding the bullets much easier and faster by identifying their exact spot. Instead of cutting into numerous areas of the body to find the bullet, pathologists could make a single incision.

The virtual autopsy can be a benefit to the legal system. During a court case, the three dimensional images from an autopsy can be shown in courtrooms without terrifying people, unlike the traditional gruesome pictures of a victim’s body.

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