Computed tomography (CT) virtual autopsy and classical autopsy discrepancies: radiologist's error or a demonstration of post-mortem multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) limitation?

Forensic Sci Int. 2010 Feb 25;195(1-3):e13-7. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.11.001. Epub 2009 Dec 1.


Modern imaging technologies, such as computed tomography (CT) techniques, represent a great challenge in forensic pathology. The field of forensics has experienced a rapid increase in the use of these new techniques to support investigations on critical cases, as indicated by the implementation of CT scanning by different forensic institutions worldwide. Advances in CT imaging techniques over the past few decades have finally led some authors to propose that virtual autopsy, a radiological method applied to post-mortem analysis, is a reliable alternative to traditional autopsy, at least in certain cases. The authors investigate the occurrence and the causes of errors and mistakes in diagnostic imaging applied to virtual autopsy. A case of suicide by a gunshot wound was submitted to full-body CT scanning before autopsy. We compared the first examination of sectional images with the autopsy findings and found a preliminary misdiagnosis in detecting a peritoneal lesion by gunshot wound that was due to radiologist's error. Then we discuss a new emerging issue related to the risk of diagnostic failure in virtual autopsy due to radiologist's error that is similar to what occurs in clinical radiology practice.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Diaphragm / injuries
  • Diaphragm / pathology
  • Forensic Pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement*
  • Stomach / injuries
  • Stomach / pathology
  • Suicide
  • Thoracic Injuries / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*
  • Wounds, Gunshot / pathology*