Historically, autopsies have been performed for various clinical and medicolegal reasons. They can help determine the cause of a death when it's unknown, evaluate traumatic deaths to assist in the development of better safety standards, provide valuable legal evidence in the investigation of nonaccidental deaths, and discover hereditary information that can save future lives. Over the past 35 years, the number of autopsies performed has decreased by 50%, yet the need for them has not. Public bias against performing autopsies based on religious and ethical beliefs is one reason why the number of autopsies has declined. Consent for the autopsy is generally required from the next of kin, unless the reason for performing one is protected by law; however, this is not always easily attainable. With the development of multislice computed tomography (CT) imaging, the ability to produce 2-dimensional (D) and 3D images, and the availability of a specialized pump that allows computed tomography angiography (CTA) to be performed on a cadaver, a viable alternative to the conventional autopsy is possible. Recent studies have demonstrated that postmortem CT (pmCT) and postmortem CTA (pmCTA) have greater value over conventional autopsy when determining causes of death in certain circumstances, however, there are differing opinions as to whether pmCT will replace the conventional autopsy in the future. This activity will review the recent literature that validates the diagnostic value of pmCT and pmCTA in various clinical and legal situations and will discuss the interesting and diverse applications of these postmortem studies.
After reading this article, the participant should be able to:
- Describe the various clinical applications of postmortem computed tomography (pmCT) and postmortem computed tomography angiography (pmCTA).
- Discuss the change in conventional autopsy rates that has occurred over time.
- Identify causes of death that pmCT can better determine than conventional autopsy.
Categories: CT, Computed Tomographic Angiography (CTA)