A Brief Look At Forensic Radiograpy.

So I have made it to blog 9, and am thoroughly enjoying writing a blog every week – I feel that my writing skills and research skills are developing. For our Diagnostic Imaging cohort last week was classed as a reading week, we did not have any lectures to attend, so for this week’s blog I am going to explore my area of interest – Forensic Radiography. When picking a degree whilst I was undertaking my access course I had to take many things into account – I wanted to pick a career that I would find interesting and would enjoy. Since I have been a little girl I have always had an interest in bones, history and forensics – spending many hours watching the discovery channel and the crime and investigation channel, I have always been fascinated with the human body and what happens after death. I was torn between a career in radiography and a career in forensics and whilst browsing the web one day I came across the term ‘forensic radiographer’ – that was it, I instantly was hooked. I applied to university to study diagnostic imaging – and hopefully one day I will expand on my radiography career and become a forensic radiographer (or that is what I hope!).

Forensic radiography is defined by the Society of Radiographers as the application of the science of diagnostic imaging to answer questions of law, with evidence being collected from either living or deceased subjects (Society of Radiographers, 2010). There are many applications of forensic radiography:

  • Investigation of non fatal injury.
  • Location of forensic evidence.
  • Cause of death.
  • Human identification (Society of Radiographers, 2010).

One particular field of forensic radiography that I am very interested in is the use of non invasive imaging modalities to image ancient remains, or ‘Virtuopsy’ (Virtopsy, 2002-2014), This is where modern imaging techniques are used to perform autopsies – unlike the traditional medical autopsies this technology allows autopsies to be performed without harming the cadaver/remains. Nowadays, with the discovery of ancient remains and remains that have already been discovered that are on display in museums around the world, imaging techniques are being used to examine the remains – this means that they do not have to be damaged or physically examined and that they can be unwrapped virtually. This practice was used within the recent discovery of King Richard the third, when the Kings remains were discovered his body underwent a whole body Computed Tomography (CT) scan as researchers wished to discover the cause of death (University of Leciester, 2014).

Some more information regarding this can be found by clicking the following link:


CT autopsies are also now being used to give facial reconstructions to discovered remains, such as the ancient Egyptian remains of Tutankhamun. Through the use of Modern CT technology his remains were examined virtually and his face was reconstructed, along with the surprise discovery of many afflictions that he was plagued with (Artnet News, 2014).

Some more information regarding this examination can be discovered by clicking on the following link:


Virtual autopsy is also being used in the Trauma patient’s pathway. After death that is deemed as suspicious many patients are now undergoing virtual autopsies so that cause of death can quickly be discovered, along with medical autopsies that are being performed after – the results are found to be accurate and correct. This is supported by a report that documented a case report of three cases of fatal blunt head injury using post-mortem MSCT and MRI which showed massive bone and soft-tissue injuries of the head and signs of high intracranial pressure with herniation of the cerebellar tonsils. Similar findings were found in clinical autopsy which was performed after the digital autopsy (Aghayev, 2004).

Within some cultures, medical autopsies are not allowed for religious reasons – this can mean that families are refusing an autopsy of a deceased patient when it is needed, virtual autopsy is allowed because it is non invasive, this new technology is being seen to overcome cultural and religious barriers (Bakri & Jaudin, 2006).

In conclusion it can be seen that virtual autopsy has a wide variety of uses, and can be used to examine remains in the quickest and most non evasive way.


Aghayev, E., 2004. Virtopsy post-mortem multi-slice computed tomography (MSCT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) demonstrating descending tonsillar herniation: comparison to clinical studies. Neuroradiology, 46(7), pp. 559-564.

Artnet News, 2014. Autopsy Unmaskes King Tuts Face. [Online] Available at: http://news.artnet.com/art-world/autopsy-unmaskes-king-tuts-true-face-and-it-isnt-pretty-140493 [Accessed 6 November 2014].

Bakri, D. & Jaudin, R., 2006. Virtual Autopsy, London: Health Technology Assesment Unit Medical Development Division Department of Health.

Society of Radiographers, 2010. Guidance for Radiographers Providing Forensic Radiography Services. 2nd ed. London: Society of Radiographers.

University of Leciester, 2014. Most Likely Cause of King Richards Death. [Online] Available at: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/emfpu/Media%20and%20News [Accessed 10 November 2014].

Virtopsy, 2002-2014. About Virtopsy. [Online] Available at: http://www.virtopsy.com/about-virtopsy.html [Accessed 19` November 2014].


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