Use of pacemaker programmers for disaster victim identification

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2013 Dec;9(4):551-3. doi: 10.1007/s12024-013-9432-8. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Disaster victim identification (DVI) presents a number of physical and legal challenges, involving the degeneration of human remains and legal obstacles to forensic examinations. One non-invasive method for positive identification may be the use of a pacemaker programmer to detect and obtain data from pacemakers recovered from unidentified remains. To test the usefulness of this method, this investigation examined the efficiency and utility of 5 different pacemaker programmers in the positive identification of victims of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan at 8 disaster sites in May 2011. On scanning 148 sets of remains, data were successfully obtained from 1 implant in 1 set of remains, allowing for the rapid positive identification of the individual. Scanning pacemakers with pacemaker programmers can be a non-invasive method of positive identification that meets Japanese legal and institutional requirements, but this method is ineffective without a preceding whole-body X-ray scan.

MeSH terms

  • Database Management Systems
  • Disaster Victims*
  • Disasters*
  • Equipment Design
  • Forensic Sciences / methods*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Pacemaker, Artificial*
  • Tsunamis*