The use of Post Mortem Computed Tomography (PMCT) in the identification of adult humans

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Leicester

Principal Researcher

Professor Guy Rutty (Supervisor)

Level of Research


Project Start Date

June 2013

Research Context

​As PMCT is considered internationally, particularly in its role for mass fatality investigation, answering the fundamental question of who the person was, either by PMCT alone or with other identification investigations, needs to be addressed and validated. Determining the identification of the deceased (who the person was) is a legal requirement in the United Kingdom and a fundamental Human Right. This research aims to determine the extent of the role of PMCT for identification, through the analysis of a database of known deceased adults, which has ethical approval and consent for research from the next of kin and all of which have had a full invasive autopsy. It will attempt to establish the extent to which PMCT can provide an adjunct or alternative to current methods of human adult identification (which may involve de-fleshing of bones), and investigate novel approaches to identification facilitated by PMCT.

The work will be published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at National and International conferences encouraging the global research community to expand the area. The results will be presented to Interpol and the UK Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team to assist in establishing best practice protocols in DVI. The output of this research has the ability to change autopsy practice and benefit the public globally through an accelerated, cost-effective non-invasive, safer approach to human cadaveric identification

Research Methodology

​This study is covered by local ethical and NHS Research and Development approval. It will comprise of retrospective and prospective studies. The retrospective study will utilise the anonymised, deceased relatives’ consented database [teaching, training and research] of over 300 autopsy matched PMCT adult cadavers which includes both natural and traumatic deaths, throughout the full adult age range, at all stages of decomposition, which has been accumulated at Leicester. To enable antemortem radiographs to be accessed and allow comparative study, the East Midlands Forensic Pathology (EMFPU) study co-ordinator will break the anonymisation code. The potential unique features identified during the retrospective assessment of external and internal features against international standards (e.g. the Interpol identification forms) will be blind-tested against an autopsy matched relative’s consented prospective research cohort. Consenting will be undertaken by consent trained medical members of the EMFPU or the study consenter, an advanced nurse practitioner. Two and three dimensional effects, soft tissue, osteological and odontological assessment will be undertaken of both the retrospective and prospective datasets. A statistical analysis will be used to establish significance of results and appropriateness for PMCT identification purposes.

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

June 2020
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