Virtopsy, the incision-less autopsy

Virtopsy, the incision-less autopsy

 
Michael Thali, a professor at the University of Berne, and his colleagues have developed a system called "virtopsy," which since 2006 has been used to examine all sudden deaths or those of unnatural causes in the Swiss capital. The US military at Dover Air Force Base is using a more-limited version for autopsies on soldiers, he said.

“Without opening the body we can detect 60-80 per cent of the injuries and causes of death,” Thali explained. The advantages of virtual autopsies are that digital, permanent records are created that can be shared via the Internet, Thali said.

During an autopsy, which takes about 30 minutes, the deceased is placed on an examining table and the surface scanner, just larger than a shoe box and suspended from a robotic arm, traces along the body's contours.

“At the moment here in Berne is the only place world wide, which is combining the surface scanning with CT magnetic resonance scanning and post mortem angiography and post mortem biopsy,” Thali said, explaining that the total installation cost more than 2 million Swiss francs ($1.98 million).

The CT scanner makes images of skeletal injuries and damage to the brain, while the magnetic scanner produces finer images of soft tissue, Thali said. Angiography visualizes the inside of blood vessels.

“That's the big advantage, because you don't have to destroy the body you can see projectiles in 3D and can do the analysis,” Thali said of the system's use to the US military.

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