| Updated at: 0943 PST, Tuesday, November 22, 2011|
PARIS: Hi-tech medical scanners could be used to probe causes of death, reducing the need for invasive autopsies that can upset bereaved families, a study published in The Lancet on Tuesday says.
In Britain, post-mortems are ordered in about a fifth of deaths, notably where crime is suspected. The procedure has changed little over the past century, entailing evisceration and then dissection of the major organs.
Keen to find whether a non-invasive alternative could be used, researchers tested frequency magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and computed tomography (CT) scanners in 182 adult deaths where the corpse was afterwards given an autopsy.
Autopsy was not needed in a third of cases that had been imaged by fMRI and in half of the cases imaged by CT, according to the study.
However, the scanners were not perfect.
They failed to spot, or misattributed, more than two dozen cases of heart disease as well as several dozen cases of embolism, pneumonia and intra-abdominal lesions.
Screening by scanners could identify some of the major causes of death and thus make some autopsies unnecessary, the paper suggests.
It could also identify suspect lesions that would enable pathologists to carry out only a minimal dissection to pinpoint the cause of death. (AFP)