Post-mortem thermal angiography: a pilot study on swine coronary circulation

Int J Legal Med. 2019 Mar;133(2):571-581. doi: 10.1007/s00414-018-1935-0. Epub 2018 Sep 14.


Thermal imaging (TI) allows the detection of thermal patterns emitted from objects as a function of their temperature in the long-infrared spectrum and produces visible images displaying temperature differences. The aim of this pilot study was to test TI to visualize the coronary circulation of swine hearts. Thirty swine hearts were prepared for ex situ coronarography, and thermal images were acquired through a FlirOne thermal camera (FLIR Systems®) paired with a Google Android Smartphone. Coronary arteries were cannulated, namely the anterior interventricular artery, the circumflex branch of the left coronary artery, and the right coronary artery. The heart was cooled, and contrast medium (CM) consisting of distilled water heated to 40 °C was injected in a coronary vessel, while thermal images were captured. These steps were repeated for each coronary vessel and under experimentally simulated coronary heart disease. Thermal imaging coronarography (TIC) allowed a clear representation of the morphology and course of the coronary vessels and of experimentally simulated coronary heart disease, moreover, demonstrated to be easy to perform during or after autopsies on ex situ hearts, non-destructive, reproducible, and cheap. On the basis of these preliminary results, TIC might allow a subsequent more focused and comprehensive cardiopathological examination of the heart, which remains mandatory for the definitive diagnosis of coronary heart disease. Although these preliminary results seem encouraging, further systematic studies on human hearts, both normal and pathological, are necessary for estimating the sensitivity and specificity of the proposed method and to draw any definitive conclusion.

Keywords: Cardiopathology; Ex situ coronarography; Post-mortem coronarography; Post-mortem imaging; Thermal imaging.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autopsy
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Coronary Circulation*
  • Coronary Vessels / anatomy & histology*
  • Heart / anatomy & histology
  • Organ Size
  • Pilot Projects
  • Swine
  • Thermography / instrumentation*