U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Forensic Microradiology: Micro-Computed Tomography (Micro-CT) and Analysis of Patterned Injuries Inside of Bone

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 48 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2003 Pages: 1336-1342
Michael J. Thali M.D.; Ulrike Taubenreuther Ph.D.; Marek Karolczak Ph.D.; Marcel Braun; Walter Brueschweiler Ph.D.; Willi A. Kalender Ph.D.; Richard Dirnhofer M.D.
Date Published
November 2003
7 pages
This article discusses micro-computed tomography (Micro-CT), which offers an opportunity to analyze patterned injuries of tool marks made in bone.
Recently technologies have been developed to analyze toolmarks on bone but there is currently no adequate method for quantitative analysis of stabbing knife wounds in bone. Micro-CT was introduced in the mid 1990's as a scaled-down, high-resolution imaging method in the medical field. Micro-CT offers a worthwhile opportunity to analyze patterned injuries of tool marks inside a bone. Using high-resolution Micro-CT and computer software with detailed analysis of three-dimensional architecture, it has recently become feasible to obtain microstructural 3D bone information. This study explored whether 3D methods of Micro-CT have the potential to examine stabbing wounds in bone with high resolution in a non-invasive manner. A homicide case with sharp force injuries to skin, soft tissue, and skeletal tissue (pelvis) was the test case. Analysis of this case revealed that Micro-CT provides a very useful tool to narrow down the choice of knives that caused the bone injury. Even broken blade fragments could be graphically and non-destructively assigned to a suspect weapon. By using the microradiological method, it is possible to document “class characteristics” of the injury, such as general size, profile, shape, and direction of travel/movement. Future studies with a higher spatial resolution Micro-CT may determine “individual characteristics” (caused by imperfections or irregularities on the surface of the implements) of a knife injury in bone. Micro-CT provides a new and advantageous tool for non-destructive examination and analysis of patterned tool marks inside bone. This new method can be used for matching a possible injury-causing instrument against the patterned lesion inside the bone. Combining forensic pathology skills with high-technology imaging is in the future for forensic medicine and forensic science. 8 figures, 14 references