Post-mortem diffusion tensor imaging

Fiber tractography of peripheral nervous tissue in a forensic settting

Nowadays imaging modalities are used often in a forensic setting to visualize the body non-invasively and obtain additional information which can be helpful in identifying cause of death. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be used in this area to investigate soft tissue and organ injuries. The potential value in forensic sciences of more advanced techniques such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) remains unexplored. Peripheral nerves are hard to dissect during regular autopsy, and is therefore a rather neglected area. DTI has the potential to identify nervous structures with great detail and can help in providing morphological information using fiber tractography. It can also provide additional information consisting of different diffusion parameters to characterize nervous tissue properties. Spinal or neck traumatic injuries which stem from a sudden, traumatic blow that fractures one or more of the vertebrae and surrounding nervous tissue can be hard to identify during conventional autopsy. This technique might be helpful in these trauma cases but could also be beneficial in for example homicides. However, its application in a postmortem setting can be challenging since there are different degenerative processes starting soon after death. In this research we explore the potential of DTI to be used as a tool to assess peripheral nervous tissue in non-fixed postmortem cases.


The figure displays the lumbosacral (L3-S2) nerves in a post-mortem subject. The color-encoding is according to the fractional anisotropy.