VIRTUAL AUTOPSY Introduction The role of radiology in autopsy has been extended to include multidetector computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. According to Thali et al (2003), the term Virtual Autopsy or Virtopsy refers to the technique of postmortem imaging with multidetector CT and/ or MR imaging…
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Full body radiography also helps in identification of human remains when conventional methods such as fingerprinting or DNA analysis cannot be used, or are not available. Thesis Statement: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the new development of virtual autopsy in forensic science, and identify its advantages and disadvantages over conventional autopsy procedures that have been employed until recently. Virtual Autopsy with the Help of Multidetector Computed Tomography The application of imaging methods for non-invasive documentation and analysis of relevant forensic findings in living and dead persons has not kept abreast of enormous technical development of imaging methods. Forensic radiology is now a rapidly growing interdisciplinary subspeciality of both forensic medicine and radiology. The new modalities that are now increasingly being promoted for use in forensic investigations include Computer Tomography (CT) including spiral multislice, and Magnetic Reso-nance Imaging or MRI (Thali et al, 2007). The VIRTOPSY project aims to utilize radiological scanning to upgrade low-tech documentation and autopsy procedures in the contemporary high-tech field of medicine. The purpose of this is to improve scientific value, and to increase significance and quality in the forensic field. The term VIRTOPSY is the combination of the terms virtual and autopsy. The term means to see with one’s own eyes (virtus: useful, efficient and good; autos: self; and opsomei: I will see), as translated from Latin. Thus autopsy means to see with one’s own eyes. Thali et al (2007) aimed to eliminate the subjectivity of “autos”, hence they combined the two terms virtual an autopsy, deleting “autos”, and creating VIRTOPSY. Today the project VIRTOPSY groups the research topics under one scientific category, is characterized by a trans-disciplinary research approach that integrates “Forensic Medicine, Pathology, Radiology, Image-Processing, Physics, and Biomechanics” (Thali et al, 2007, p.100), to an international scientific network. Levy et al (2006) conducted a study to retrospectively assess virtual autopsy performed with multidetector computed tomography (CT) for the forensic evaluation of gunshot wound victims. They found that multidetector CT can aid the prediction of lethal wounds and the location of metallic fragments. Similarly, Ljung, Winskog, Persson et al (2006) devised a procedure for virtual autopsies based on interactive 3D visualizations of large scale, high resolution data from CT-scans of human cadavers. Using examples from forensic medicine, the researchers stated that “based on the technical demands of the procedure, state-of-the-art volume rendering techniques are applied and refined to enable real-time, full body virtual autopsies involving gigabyte sized data on standard graphics processing units (GPUs)” (Ljung et al, 2006, p.1). The techniques applied include transfer function based data reduction using level of detail selection and multiresolution selection techniques. The paper also describes a data management component for large, out-of-core data sets and an extension of the GPU-based raycaster for efficient dual text field (TF) rendering. The authors demonstrated the added value and future potential of virtual autopsies in the medical and forensic fields. Data sets from forensic cases provide detailed benchmarks of the pipeline (Ljung et al, 2006). The Use of Magnetic
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