Development of a Computer-Assisted Forensic Radiographic Identification Method Using the Lateral Cervical and Lumbar Spine*

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Abstract

Medical examiners and coroners (ME/C) in the United States hold statutory responsibility to identify deceased individuals who fall under their jurisdiction. The computer-assisted decedent identification (CADI) project was designed to modify software used in diagnosis and treatment of spinal injuries into a mathematically validated tool for ME/C identification of fleshed decedents. CADI software analyzes the shapes of targeted vertebral bodies imaged in an array of standard radiographs and quantifies the likelihood that any two of the radiographs contain matching vertebral bodies. Six validation tests measured the repeatability, reliability, and sensitivity of the method, and the effects of age, sex, and number of radiographs in array composition. CADI returned a 92–100% success rate in identifying the true matching pair of vertebrae within arrays of five to 30 radiographs. Further development of CADI is expected to produce a novel identification method for use in ME/C offices that is reliable, timely, and cost-effective.

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