Observational Case Series: An Algorithm Incorporating Multidetector Computed Tomography in the Medicolegal Investigation of Human Remains after a Natural Disaster*

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Abstract

An algorithm incorporating multidetector computed tomography (MDCT), digital radiographs, and external examination was used to triage cases for noninvasive or complete autopsy after a natural disaster. The algorithm was applied to 27 individuals who died during or soon after the earthquake that struck the Republic of Haiti on January 12, 2010. Of the 27 cases reviewed, 7 (26%) required a complete autopsy to determine cause and manner of death. In the remaining 20 (74%), cause and manner of death were determined with a reasonable degree of medical certainty after review of circumstances, an external examination, and postmortem imaging by MDCT and digital radiography (noninvasive autopsy). MDCT was particularly useful in detecting skeletal fractures caused by blunt force injury which were not evident on digital radiographs. The algorithm incorporating postmortem MDCT can be useful in the triage of human remains for autopsy after a natural disaster.

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