Comparison of whole-body post mortem 3D CT and autopsy evaluation in accidental blunt force traumatic death using the abbreviated injury scale classification

Barry Daly*, Samir F Abboud, Zabiullah Ali, Clint Sliker, David Fowler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Although 3D CT imaging data are available on survivors of accidental blunt trauma, little similar data has been collected and classified on major injuries in victims of fatal injuries. This study compared the sensitivity of post mortem computed tomography (PMCT) with that of conventional autopsy for major trauma findings classified according to the trauma Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS). Whole-body 3D PMCT imaging data and full autopsy findings were analyzed on 21 victims of accidental blunt force trauma death. All major injuries were classified on the AIS scale with ratings from 3 (serious) to 6 (unsurvivable). Agreement between sensitivity of autopsy and PMCT for major injuries was determined. A total of 195 major injuries were detected (mean per fatality, 9.3; range, 1-14). Skeletal injuries by AIS grade included 37 grade 3, 45 grade 4, 12 grade 5, and 2 grade 6 major findings. Soft tissue injuries included 10 grade 3, 68 grade 4, 16 grade 5, and 5 grade 6 major findings. Of these, PMCT detected 165 (88 skeletal, 77 soft tissue), and autopsy detected 127 (59 skeletal, 68 soft tissue). PMCT agreed with autopsy in 86% and 76% of skeletal and soft tissue injuries, respectively. PMCT detected an additional 37 skeletal and 31 soft tissue injuries that were not identified at autopsy. Autopsy detected 8 skeletal and 22 soft tissue injuries that were not detected by PMCT. PMCT was more sensitive for skeletal (. P=. 0.05) and head and neck region injury (. P=. 0.043) detection. PMCT showed a trend for greater sensitivity than autopsy, but this did not reach statistical significance (. P=. 0.083). 3D PMCT detected significantly more skeletal injuries than autopsy and a similar number of soft tissue injuries to autopsy and promises to be a sensitive tool for detection and classification of skeletal injuries in fatal blunt force accidental trauma. Use of the AIS scale allows standardized categorization and quantification of injuries that contribute to death in such cases and allows more objective comparison between autopsy and PMCT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-26
Number of pages7
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Abbreviated injury scale (AIS)
  • Autopsy
  • Blunt accidental trauma
  • Postmortem CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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