Error estimation on extracorporeal trajectory determination from body scans

Int J Legal Med. 2022 May;136(3):729-737. doi: 10.1007/s00414-021-02676-y. Epub 2021 Aug 23.


This study explores the magnitude of two sources of error that are introduced when extracorporeal bullet trajectories are based on post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT) and/or surface scanning of a body. The first source of error is caused by an altered gravitational pull on soft tissue, which is introduced when a body is scanned in another position than it had when hit. The second source of error is introduced when scanned images are translated into a virtual representation of the victim's body. To study the combined magnitude of these errors, virtual shooting trajectories with known vertical angles through five "victims" (live test persons) were simulated. The positions of the simulated wounds on the bodies were marked, with the victims in upright positions. Next, the victims were scanned in supine position, using 3D surface scanning, similar to a body's position when scanned during a PMCT. Seven experts, used to working with 3D data, were asked to determine the bullet trajectories based on the virtual representations of the bodies. The errors between the known and determined trajectories were analysed and discussed. The results of this study give a feel for the magnitude of the introduced errors and can be used to reconstruct actual shooting incidents using PMCT data.

Keywords: 3D trajectory reconstruction; Bullet trajectory; Computer Tomography; Error estimation; Forensic; Shooting incident reconstruction.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods