"The "virtual autopsy" as envisioned and practiced by Dr. Michael Thali and colleagues at the University of Bern's Institute of Forensic Medicine is a minimally invasive procedure that relies on high technology rather than sharp implements.
It offers advantages in criminal cases since bodies are not cut up and juries view computer simulations rather than photos of cadavers, said Thali, who spoke Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
"It does not destroy key forensic evidence," Thali said. "Also, when you present autopsy findings in a courtroom they can be very gruesome."
Further, he said, it makes autopsies on decomposed bodies considerably easier.
Thali said technicians use advanced computed tomography — CT scans — to get an overview of the body, then follow that up with magnetic resonance imaging for details of organs, muscles and soft tissue.
Three-dimensional surface scanning provides a picture of the outside of the body. All the images can then be merged on the computer, giving investigators a picture of the entire body that can be stored on a computer, e-mailed to others for a second opinion or even posted on a Web site, Thali said. "