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Int J Legal Med. 2013 Sep;127(5):981-9. doi: 10.1007/s00414-012-0814-3. Epub 2013 Jan 6.

Postmortem computed tomography angiography vs. conventional autopsy: advantages and inconveniences of each method.

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University Centre of Legal Medicine Lausanne-Geneva, University of Lausanne, Rue du Bugnon 21, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland.

Erratum in

  • Int J Legal Med. 2014 May;128(3):577. Christine, Chevallier [corrected to Chevallier, Christine]; Francesco, Doenz [corrected to Doenz, Francesco]; Paul, Vaucher [corrected to Vaucher, Paul]; Cristian, Palmiere [corrected to Palmiere, Cristian]; Alejandro, Dominguez [corrected to Dominguez, Al.



Postmortem computed tomography angiography (PMCTA) was introduced into forensic investigations a few years ago. It provides reliable images that can be consulted at any time. Conventional autopsy remains the reference standard for defining the cause of death, but provides only limited possibility of a second examination. This study compares these two procedures and discusses findings that can be detected exclusively using each method.


This retrospective study compared radiological reports from PMCTA to reports from conventional autopsy for 50 forensic autopsy cases. Reported findings from autopsy and PMCTA were extracted and compared to each other. PMCTA was performed using a modified heart-lung machine and the oily contrast agent Angiofil® (Fumedica AG, Muri, Switzerland).


PMCTA and conventional autopsy would have drawn similar conclusions regarding causes of death. Nearly 60 % of all findings were visualized with both techniques. PMCTA demonstrates a higher sensitivity for identifying skeletal and vascular lesions. However, vascular occlusions due to postmortem blood clots could be falsely assumed to be vascular lesions. In contrast, conventional autopsy does not detect all bone fractures or the exact source of bleeding. Conventional autopsy provides important information about organ morphology and remains the only way to diagnose a vital vascular occlusion with certitude.


Overall, PMCTA and conventional autopsy provide comparable findings. However, each technique presents advantages and disadvantages for detecting specific findings. To correctly interpret findings and clearly define the indications for PMCTA, these differences must be understood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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