By Andrew Nusca
Posting in Technology
Virtual autopsies that do away with slicing open the body can now be performed with a new three-dimensional scanner.
Called Virtobot, the forensic scanner was developed at the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland.
The industrial robot provides doctors with a high precision, three-dimensional image of cadavers. Its value is that it allows scientists to digitally preserve details about the cadaver, so that causes of death not immediately apparent can be accurately established years later.
The machine records the contours of a cadaver under examination using X-ray computed tomography.
It's located in the university's "virtopsy" laboratory, where researcher Michael Thali and his team are working on developing post-mortem examinations using high definition magnetic resonance imagers, or MRIs, and computer tomography, or CT or CAT scans.
Here's how it works: the robot projects a light bar onto the corpse under examination. The cadaver's body contours are recorded in high definition using a digital stereo camera, including the texture of the skin. Essentially, the robot combines external surface scans with penetrating internal CT scans.
The goal: to use radiological digital imaging methods as primary diagnostic tools in forensic pathology, allowing for only a minimally-invasive "keyhole" autopsy.
The Virtobot was programmed by Lars Ebert as part of the National Centres of Competence in Research, Co-Me.
Here's a video about the robot:
While digitally captured data has been approved as evidence in Swiss courts, it's only acceptable when validated by a conventional autopsy.
Mar 22, 2010
More people should consider donating body parts after death. This scanner makes it easier to ignore that option. I do, however, like the idea that a virtual autopsy may encourage the examination of people who died of, say, Alzheimer's to gather information that may be useful in the development of treatments.
It is about time because although I appreciate the science during an autopsy, it is disrespectful to the deceased and their families. It is tough enough to lose a loved one, worse to think of them being dissected to look for the cause of death.