Forensic Science International | 2021

Use of post-mortem chest computed tomography in Covid-19 pneumonia



\n Background and aim\n COVID-19 is an extremely challenging disease, both from a clinical and forensic point of view, and performing autopsies of COVID-19 deceased requires adequately equipped sectorial rooms and exposes health professionals to the risk of contagion. Among one of the categories that are most affected by SARS-Cov-2 infection are the elderly residents. Despite the need for prompt diagnoses, which are essential to implement all isolation measures necessary to contain the infection spread, deceased subjects in long-term care facilities are still are often diagnosed post-mortem. In this context, our study focuses on the use of post-mortem computed tomography for the diagnosis of COVID-19 infection, in conjunction with post-mortem swabs. The aim of this study was to assess the usefulness of post-mortem whole CT-scanning in identifying COVID-19 pneumonia as a cause of death, by comparing chest CT-findings of confirmed COVID-19 fatalities to control cases.\n \n Materials and methods\n The study included 24 deceased subjects: 13 subjects coming from long-term care facility and 11 subjects died at home. Whole body CT scans were performed within 48hours from death in all subjects to evaluate the presence and distribution of pulmonary abnormalities typical of COVID-19-pneumonia, including: ground-glass opacities (GGO), consolidation, and pleural effusion to confirm the post-mortem diagnosis.\n \n Results\n Whole-body CT scans was feasible and allowed a complete diagnosis in all subjects. In 9 (69%) of the 13 cases from long-term care facility the cause of death was severe COVID 19 pneumonia, while GGO were present in 100% of the study population.\n \n Conclusion\n In the context of rapidly escalating COVID-19 outbreaks, given that laboratory tests for the novel coronavirus is time-consuming and can be falsely negative, the post-mortem CT can be considered as a reliable and safe modality to confirm COVID-19 pneumonia. This is especially true for specific postmortem chest CT-findings that are rather characteristic of COVID-19 fatalities.\n

Volume 325
Pages 110851 - 110851
DOI 10.1016/j.forsciint.2021.110851
Language English
Journal Forensic Science International

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