Is Differentiation of Frequently Encountered Foreign Bodies in Corpses Possible by Hounsfield Density Measurement?

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The radiological determination of foreign objects in corpses can be difficult if they are fragmented or deformed. With multislice computed tomography, radiodensities—referred to as Hounsfield units (HU)—can be measured. We examined the possibility of differentiating 21 frequently occurring foreign bodies, such as metals, rocks, and different manmade materials by virtue of their HU values. Gold, steel, and brass showed mean HU values of 30671–30710 (upper measurable limit), mean HU values for steel, silver, copper, and limestone were 20346, 16949, 14033, and 2765, respectively. The group consisting of objects, such as aluminum, tarmac, car front-window glass, and other rocks, displayed mean HU values of 2329–2131 HU. The mean HU value of bottle glass and car side-window glass was 2088, whereas windowpane glass was 493. HU value determination may therefore help in preautopsy differentiation between case-relevant and irrelevant foreign bodies and thus be useful for autopsy planning and extraction of the objects in question.

Keywords: Hounsfield units; Virtopsy; foreign body detection; forensic imaging; forensic science; multislice computed tomography

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Forensic Imaging and Virtopsy, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern CH-3012, Switzerland.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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