What is a Digital Autopsy?

Human skull
A side view of a human skull rendered through computed tomography (CT) scanning technology. Photo © BanksPhotos/E+/Getty Images

Definition:
A digital autopsy is a relatively new form of post-mortem examination involving a computed tomography (CT) scanner and sophisticated computer software to determine an individual's cause of death. Unlike a traditional partial or full internal autopsy, however -- in which a pathologist or medical examiner uses surgical tools, such as a scalpel, to dissect the cadaver and study its internal organs and systems -- a digital autopsy is a non-invasive procedure.

Instead, a digital autopsy relies on multiple X-ray images that, once processed by the computer software, provide a high-definition, three-dimensional "photograph" of the deceased's entire body, inside and out. An operator can then manipulate this image in a variety of sophisticated ways, including rotating it 360° along any axis, zooming in to focus on a specific area, viewing any cross section of the body desired, and digitally removing layers to examine the musculature or the skeleton, for instance, or specific organs, such as the brain or heart. (See below for a video link highlighting the power and sophistication of the digital autopsy process.)

A Malaysian company, iGene, is pioneering the digital-autopsy concept and estimates that more than 70% of traditional partial or full internal autopsies could instead take advantage of this process. As of July 2015, the company has established three facilities in the United Kingdom that provide digital autopsies, and iGene plans to expand this network worldwide in the coming years in order to provide a potential alternative to traditional post-mortem examinations.

Related Articles of Interest:
VIDEO: An Overview of Digital Autopsy Capabilities
Four Reasons to Request an Autopsy
What Happens to My Body Right After I Die?

Sources:
"The future of post mortem examinations." iGeneGlobal.com. Retrieved July 18, 2015. http://digitalautopsy.co.uk/discover-digital-autopsy/what-is-digital-autopsy

"Frequently Asked Questions." iGeneGlobal.com. Retrieved July 18, 2015. http://digitalautopsy.co.uk/discover-digital-autopsy/frequently-asked-questions

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