JFMT Online
  Home   Subscribe   Feedback   Sitemap  

Journal of Forensic
Medicine and Toxicology
(International Edition)
A peer Reviewed Journal Dedicated to the
promotion of all branches of medicine and
science useful in the administration of justice.


Home About Journal Editorial Board Current Issue Archives Online submission Contact
   This Issue Table of Content (PDF)  
   For contributors (PDF)  
   For readers  
   For Advertisers  
search engine by freefind advanced
   By Issue  
   By Author  
   By Title  


Ashish Jain,1 Adarsh Kumar,2 DN Bharadwaj,3 US Sinha4


Currently documentation of postmortem findings are based on centuries old autopsy techniques and protocol which includes dissection of cadaver, verbal description and conventional 2-dimensional photographs. Although in cases of alleged custodial deaths videography is recommended as per the National Human Rights Commission guidelines and done in addition to above procedures. These methods are highly subjective and sometimes are unable to fully elucidate the real picture. However with the aid of CT-scan (catopsy), MRI and 3-D reconstruction techniques; post mortem pathological findings can be demonstrated easily and comprehensively to the lay person in the court room. For various reasons including lack of respect for the procedure on the part of doctors and relatives of the deceased trying their best to avoid the autopsy because of their religious belief; the autopsy rate is declining. Also because of their infrequency, autopsies no longer serve as an adequate teaching tool for medical students whether undergraduate or postgraduate. Virtopsy or virtual autopsy is a method of documentation of postmortem findings with the help of CT-scan, MRI and post-processing techniques. This procedure is investigator independent, objective and non-invasive. It may even be used to screen the dead bodies before cremation because digitally stored data can be used at any time later to provide patho-anatomic details. Although debatable, in our opinion virtopsy has the potential to partially or under certain circumstances fully replace the traditional autopsy, with the advancement of scientific knowledge and facilities available. The paper gives an in-depth analysis about various pros and cons of using virtopsy as a tool in scientific investigation of a case of death.


autopsy; virtopsy; catopsy; recent advances.



  1. Virtopsy home page. Available at: http://www.virtopsy.com. Accessed on 22 August 2008.

  2. Dirnhofer R, Jackowski C, Vock P, Potter K, Thali MJ. Virtopsy : Minimally invasive, imaging-guided virtual autopsy. Radiographics 2006; 26(1):305-1333.

  3. Thali MJ, Barun M & Dirnhofer R. Optical 3D surface digitizing in Forensic Medicine: 3D Documentation of skin and bone injuries, Forensic Sci Int, 2003; 137(2-3):203-8.

  4. Thali MJ, Yen K, Vock P, Ozdoba C, Kneubuehl BP, Sonnenschein M & Dirnhofer R. Image-guided virtual autopsy findings of gunshot victims performed with multi-slice computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging and subsequent correlation between radiology and autopsy findings, Forensic Sci Int. 2003 Dec 17; 138(1-3):8-16.

  5. Thali MJ, Braun M, Buck U, Aghayev E, Jackowski C, Vock P, Sonnenschein M, Dirnhofer R. VIRTOPSY– scientific documentation, reconstruction and animation in forensic: individual and real 3D data based geometric approach including optical body/object surface and radiological CT/MRI scanning, J Forensic Sci. 2005 Mar; 50(2):428-42.

  6. Buck U, Naether S, Braun M, Bolliger S, Friederich H, Jackowski C, Aghayev E, Christe A, Vock P, Dirnhofer R, Thali MJ. Application of 3D documentation and geometric reconstruction methods in traffic accident analysis: with high resolution surface scanning, radiological MSCT/MRI scanning and real data based animation. Forensic Sci Int, 2007 Jul 20; 170(1):20-28.

  7. Patowary A J. Virtopsy: one step forward in the field of Forensic Medicine-a review. J Indian Acad Forensic Med, 2008; 30(1):32-36

  8. Available at http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_does_CT_Scan_machine_cost. Accessed on 30 August 2008.
    Available at http://www.ic.gc.ca/epic/site/mitr-crtim.nsf/en/hm00286.html. Accessed on 30 August 2008


1 Junior Resident
2 Asst. Professor
3 Addl. Professor
4 Professor & Head
1,2 & 3 - Deptt. of Forensic Medicine, AIIMS, New Delhi
4 Deptt. of Forensic Medicine, MLN Medical College, Allahabad
Corresponding Author: Dr. Adarsh Kumar
e-mail: dradarshk@yahoo.com Ph: 98684-38856, 9868397146


All rights reserved with Medico-Legal Society

Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology,
Dept. of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences,
New Delhi, INDIA.