Non-surgical technique can determine cause of death

A new non-surgical post-mortem technique has been pioneered by forensic pathologists and radiologists at Leicester University in collaboration with the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

‘In collaboration with a radiology team led by Prof Bruno Morgan, we have successfully developed a quick and simple technique of “minimally invasive targeted coronary angiography”, where we inject contrast into the body of a deceased person through a small incision in the neck and then perform a full-body CT scan. Using this method we are able to determine the cause of death in up to 80 per cent of cases,’ said Leicester University’s Prof Guy Rutty.

The researchers said that the technique is inexpensive, easy to use and applicable to natural and unnatural death, both single and mass fatalities.

Rutty explained that the technique was novel because it uses catheterisation, contrast and imaging techniques that have not been previously used.

‘Developing a new catheterisation system and using two different types of contrast to highlight the coronary vessels [air and standard coronary radio-opaque contrast media] sets us apart from other research groups,’ he said.

Rutty added: ‘This technique could see the beginning of a permanent change in autopsy practice in the UK, with fewer autopsies being performed. This technique could be used in other centres across the world.’