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Postmortem CT Scans: Can They Effectively Replace Full Autopsies?

NCJ Number
Date Published
July 2022
2 pages

This study examines the impact of CT scans on workflow and tallies the cost savings of postmortem CT in lieu of full autopsy.


The shortage of practicing forensic pathologists in the United States coupled with a significant increase in drug intoxication, homicide, and motor vehicle deaths in 2019 and 2020, has caused a serious strain on medical investigation offices. Methods that can streamline postmortem examinations without compromising accuracy can help meet that demand, potentially at reduced cost. One such method is postmortem computed tomography (or CT) scanning. Postmortem CT scans can be used in advance of a physical examination to decide whether to perform a full autopsy, partial autopsy, or other testing. This article summarizes how National Institute of Justice-funded forensic pathologists at the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator sought to obtain data about the effectiveness and cost implications of the use of postmortem CT and disseminate it to other medical examiner/coroner offices nationwide. The researchers found that postmortem CT provided them significant cost savings because they are a high-volume office that already has the equipment available for time-saving CT scan use. But for a smaller medical examiner or coroner office, they predicted that the use of postmortem CT scans could at least be cost neutral.

Date Published: July 1, 2022