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Terrestrial Laser Scanning and a Degenerated Cylinder Model to Determine Gross Morphological Change of Cadavers under Conditions of Natural Decomposition

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International Volume: 241 Dated: 2014 Pages: 35-45
Date Published
11 pages

Since decomposition can be a highly variable process, with stages that are difficult to quantify, the current study used high accuracy terrestrial laser scanning to record a repeated three-dimensional (3D) documentation of volumetric changes of a human body during early decomposition 


To determine temporal volumetric variations and 3D distribution of the changed locations in the body over time, this project introduced the use of multiple degenerated cylinder models to provide a reasonable approximation of body parts against which 3D change can be measured and visualized. An iterative closest point algorithm was used for 3D registration, and a method for determining volumetric change is presented. Comparison of the laser scanning estimates of volumetric change shows good agreement with repeated in-situ measurements of abdomen and limb circumference that were taken diurnally. The 3D visualizations of volumetric changes demonstrate that bloat is a process with a beginning, middle, and end rather than a state of presence or absence. In addition, the 3D visualizations showed conclusively that cadaver bloat is not isolated to the abdominal cavity, but also occurs in the limbs. Detailed quantification of the bloat stage of decay has the potential to alter how the beginning and end of bloat are determined by researchers and can provide further insight into the effects of the ecosystem on decomposition. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2014