Volume 47, Issue 4 (July 2002)
Validation of Chest X-ray Comparisonsfor Unknown Decedent Identification
Comparing skeletal structures between antemortem and postmortem chest radiographs is widely used by forensic specialists from many disciplines to positively identify unknown decedents. However, validity assessments of this method have been fairly limited. This study had three objectives: 1) to quantify the reliability of ante- and postmortem chest radiograph comparison for decedent identification; 2) to identify useful radiologic features supporting decedent identification; and 3) to recognize sources of error in decedent identification related to use of comparative radiographs. A forensic pathologist, a forensic anthropologist, and two radiologists participated in the study. Our results showed that chest radiograph comparisons proved reliable, if basic decedent information was provided, and antemortem and postmortem radiographs were adequately positioned and exposed. A "morphological approach" using normal anatomical structures for comparison may provide the most efficient method for accurate identification.