Improving strangulation diagnoses using micro-CT

Research Institution / Organisation

University of Warwick

In Collaboration With

West Midlands Police; West Midlands Surgical Training Centre

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

September 2015

Research Context

​Strangulation deaths are complicated to diagnose in forensic pathology practice as the injuries encountered can be very subtle or not pathognomonic to strangulations. Using high-resolution scanning of the victims’ neck structures, which can contain micro-fractures, provides another source of evidence to increase the pathologists’ confidence in the complete base of evidence. The neck structures examined in such cases are delicate and small and standard methods can fail to detect subtle injuries.

Research Methodology

​Micro-CT scanning produces high-resolution digital models of the internal structure of an object. This technology is used to visualise the internal neck structures of the larynx in cases of suspected strangulations. The resolution of the scans shows micro-fractures of the laryngeal cartilages and bones. These are compared to a pool of previously acquired images of non-damaged larynges in order to detect injuries.

Further comparison to histological sections adds another level of robustness to the results of the micro-CT scans as injuries can be validated. This further allows to explore the limitations of the method, knowledge of which is an important aspect when using this evidence in a court of law.

Interim reports and publications

​Baier, W., Mangham, C., Warnett, J. M., Payne, M., Painter, M. and Williams, M. A. (2019) Using histology to validate micro-CT findings of trauma in three post-mortem samples- First steps towards method validation. Forensic Science International. 297, pp. 27-34.

Date due for completion

November 2021
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