The value of post-mortem computed tomography of burned victims in a forensic setting

Henri M. de Bakker, Gijsbrecht H.J. Roelandt, Vidija Soerdjbalie-Maikoe, Rick R. van Rijn, Bernadette S. de Bakker

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan tijdschriftArtikelpeer review

19 Citaten (Scopus)


Objectives: Fire deaths are challenging fatalities for forensic pathologists, as the main question of whether death was due to the fire or not needs to be answered. In this retrospective study, we assessed whether post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) has an added value prior to a forensic autopsy of burned victims. Methods: From 2008 to 2016, a PMCT was performed in 50 burned corpses prior to a complete forensic autopsy. In retrospect, all 50 PMCT scans were systematically assessed by a forensically experienced radiologist, masked from the autopsy reports. Subsequently, the PMCT findings were compared with the autopsy reports. Results: Heat fractures, contractions and destruction of extremities, subcutaneous emphysema and post-mortem gas collections were easier to detect by PMCT compared to autopsy. Alterations by penetrating and blunt trauma and the presence of foreign bodies were easy to detect by PMCT as well by autopsy. PMCT was, however, not successful in detecting signs of vitality during the fire, detection of superficial thermal injuries and to answer the main question of the forensic autopsy, which is to investigate the cause of death. Conclusions: PMCT prior to autopsy is a valuable add-on in the post-mortem forensic investigation of burned victims for detection of hidden signs of trauma, gas collections and foreign bodies. However, since PMCT cannot answer the two main questions in forensic examination—determining the cause of death and detecting signs of vitality during the fire—it cannot replace an autopsy. Key Points: • Post-mortem CT (PMCT) in burned victims shows hidden signs of trauma. • Foreign bodies and gas collections can easily be detected. • Cause of death and vitality signs cannot be assessed by PMCT.

Originele taal-2Engels
Pagina's (van-tot)1912-1921
Aantal pagina's10
TijdschriftEuropean Radiology
Nummer van het tijdschrift4
StatusGepubliceerd - 1 apr. 2019
Extern gepubliceerdJa


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