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The Effects of Cranial Orientation on Forensic Frontal Sinus Identification as Assessed by Outline Analyses

NCJ Number
Date Published

This study investigating the effect of slight variations in radiographic orientation on sinus outlines and identification found that sinus breadth remained relatively stable across deviations, but small vertical deviations affected sinus height.


This study investigates how slight variations in radiographic orientation affect sinus outlines and potentially impact identification and finds that sinus breadth remained relatively stable across deviations, while sinus height was affected by small vertical deviations. Although radiographic vertical deviations resulted in statistical differences, impacts on outline matches were minimal. Frontal sinus models were created from CT scans (21 individuals) and digitally oriented across three clinically relevant views. From each standard orientation (looking straight ahead), eight 5° deviations were obtained in horizontal (left/right), vertical (up/down), and diagonal (e.g., left-up vs. right-down) directions. Within and between individual differences in sinus size and outline shape were assessed. However, practitioners need to take particular care in matching radiographic orientation for smaller and/or discontinuous (right and left sides separated) sinuses, which are more likely to lose part of the sinus in more inferiorly oriented views and, thus, could affect various methods of sinus identification. The utility of frontal sinuses for personal identification is widely recognized, but potential factors affecting its reliability remain uncertain. Deviations in cranial position between antemortem and postmortem radiographs may affect sinus appearance. Smaller and/or discontinuous sinuses were most problematic, and although match rates are high, practitioners should be aware of possible alterations in sinus variables when conducting frontal sinus identifications.

Date Published: January 1, 2022