Volume 49, Issue 4 (July 2004)
Virtopsy: Forensic Traumatology of the Subcutaneous Fatty Tissue; Multislice Computed Tomography (MSCT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) as Diagnostic Tools
Traumatic lesions of the subcutaneous fatty tissue provide important clues for forensic reconstruction. The interpretation of these patterns requires a precise description and recording of the position and extent of each lesion. During conventional autopsy, this evaluation is performed by dissecting the skin and subcutaneous tissues in successive layers.
In this way, depending on the force and type of impact (right angle or tangent), several morphologically distinct stages of fatty tissue damage can be differentiated: perilobular hemorrhage (I), contusion (II), or disintegration (III) of the fat lobuli, and disintegration with development of a subcutaneous cavity (IV).
In examples of virtopsy cases showing blunt trauma to the skin and fatty tissue, we analyzed whether these lesions can also be recorded and classified using multislice computed tomography (MSCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MSCT has proven to be a valuable screening method to detect the lesions, but MRI is necessary in order to properly differentiate and classify the grade of damage. These noninvasive radiological diagnostic tools can be further developed to play an important role in forensic examinations, in particular when it comes to evaluating living trauma victims.