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Virtual Autopsy and Forensic Anthropology of a Mummified Fetus: A Report of One Case

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 53 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2008 Pages: 208-212
Fabrice Dedouit M.D.; Celine Guilbeau-Frugier M.D.; Norbert Telmon M.D., Ph.D.; David Gainza M.D.; Philippe Otal M.D., Ph.D.; Francis Joffre M.D., Ph.D.; Daniel Rouge M.D., Ph.D.
Date Published
January 2008
5 pages
This study examined a naturally mummified fetus using multislice computed tomography (MSCT), which enabled forensic anthropologists to determine gestational age, make an exhaustive skeletal study, and exclude malformations.
Determination of gestational age was determined from an examination of the temporal and occipital bones. Although they are not easily accessible to autopsy, study of the temporal bone is important for the detection of congenital disorders. In the mummified fetus, measurements of the pars squama and pars basilaris of the occipital bones were in agreement with those of the long bones. Autopsy of mummified corpses is technically difficult because the body lacks elasticity and breaks easily. MSCT is the only nondestructive tool available for mummy investigation that enables assessment of bone abnormalities that remain hidden from direct visual examination because of the presence of dry flesh. This case report of a naturally mummified fetus illustrates the possibilities offered by MSCT for detection of skeletal abnormalities and also for estimation of gestational age using methods that cannot be directly applied at autopsy. In the current case, a jar containing the body of a fetus was found in a bush near a building. The body was mummified and unidentified, so a forensic autopsy was ordered. Full-body MSCT was performed prior to autopsy in order to study the bones and internal organs. Results were compared with the autopsy and histopathological findings. 4 figures and 13 references