What is Forensic Radiology?

Beyond medical procedures, radiology plays an important role in many industries. When it comes to law, forensic radiology can help gather evidence for causes of death and determine the identities of bodies.

Many think that the first instance of forensic radiology happened when Professor AW Wright tested the newly discovered x-ray photography on a dead rabbit in the 1890s. The photo showed dark spots on the rabbit’s body that were determined to be bullets after extraction. This showed the rabbit’s cause of death, and since then, radiology has been used in conjunction with other investigative methods in civil and criminal matters.

Determining Cause of Death

Radiology can show irregularities in someone’s body that can point to foul play and help authorities determine the time and cause of death. Post-mortem CTs can reveal bone fractures and hemorrhages in a non-invasive manner that allows for second opinions, even years later. By combining images with toxicology reports and autopsies, investigators can for a reasonable cause of death.

Figuring Out Identities

Radiology can also be used to figure out the identities of bodies by comparing previous fractures, orthopedic maneuvers, or frontal sinus patterns to the postmortem scans. In 2013, a highly decomposed body was found in Brazil. Police suspected the body was of a woman who had been missing for a week. After her family provided the investigators with previous CT scans of the woman, police were able to positively identify her since the sinuses were the same in both the antemortem and postmortem scans.

Finding Evidence

Stepping away from forensic imaging, radiology also plays a role in true crime. Similar to how airports can scan your belongings and find items, radiology can show investigators evidence hidden to the human eye. In cases of drug smuggling, radiology can pinpoint where the drugs are hidden. Radiology can also be used to gather circumstantial evidence after violent crimes.

A Deep Dive into Forensic Radiology

Forensic radiology is a useful tool for investigators, and there are many ways it can be used. If you’re interested in learning more, make sure to attend our upcoming class, Radiology: More than Just an Image. Taught by Dr. Kelli Welch Haynes, this course will include a deep dive into forensic radiology. You can join us in-person at our Houston facility or tune in for our live webinar on!

For a limited time, you can get $15 off of the class by using the code CECILIA. We can’t wait to see you guys at the class, whether you join us in person or through our webinar!


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