Evolution of post-mortem coronary imaging: from selective coronary arteriography to post-mortem CT-angiography and beyond

Radiol Med. 2018 May;123(5):351-358. doi: 10.1007/s11547-018-0855-x. Epub 2018 Jan 22.


Since the 1970s, remarkable efforts have been made in the post-mortem coronary study, especially by angiography, as an added tool to diagnose heart-related deaths. In more recent times, post-mortem CT (PMCT) and post-mortem CT-angiography (PMCTA) have become an established practice in numerous forensic units, because of the undeniable advantages these diagnostic instruments can offer: data acquisition times are increasingly fast, costs have become lower and, once acquired, data can be re-utilized and re-evaluated at any given time. This review aims to chart the history of post-mortem cardiac imaging, highlighting its evolution both in terms of methodology and technology as well as the contribution that forensic radiology has been able to offer to forensic pathology, not as an alternative to autopsy but as a guide and aid when performing one. Finally, the latest advances in the study of cardiac deaths are explored, namely by cardiac post-mortem MRI (PMMR), able to visualize all the various stages of a myocardial infarction, post-mortem MRI-angiography (PMMRA), useful in investigating coronary artery pathology and post-mortem cardiac micro-CT, able to provide near-histological levels of myocardial, coronary and valvular detail.

Keywords: Post-mortem angiography; Post-mortem computed tomography; Post-mortem computed tomography angiography; Post-mortem magnetic resonance angiography; Post-mortem magnetic resonance imaging; Post-mortem micro computed tomography.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography / methods*
  • Coronary Angiography / methods*
  • Forensic Pathology / methods*
  • Humans