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Virtopsy: postmortem imaging of laryngeal foreign bodies

Lars Oesterhelweg, Stephan A Bolliger, Michael J Thali, Steffen Ross
Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine 2009, 133 (5): 806-10

CONTEXT: Death from corpora aliena in the larynx is a well-known entity in forensic pathology. The correct diagnosis of this cause of death is difficult without an autopsy, and misdiagnoses by external examination alone are common.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the postmortem usefulness of modern imaging techniques in the diagnosis of foreign bodies in the larynx, multislice computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and postmortem full-body computed tomography-angiography were performed.

DESIGN: Three decedents with a suspected foreign body in the larynx underwent the 3 different imaging techniques before medicolegal autopsy.

RESULTS: Multislice computed tomography has a high diagnostic value in the noninvasive localization of a foreign body and abnormalities in the larynx. The differentiation between neoplasm or soft foreign bodies (eg, food) is possible, but difficult, by unenhanced multislice computed tomography. By magnetic resonance imaging, the discrimination of the soft tissue structures and soft foreign bodies is much easier. In addition to the postmortem multislice computed tomography, the combination with postmortem angiography will increase the diagnostic value.

CONCLUSIONS: Postmortem, cross-sectional imaging methods are highly valuable procedures for the noninvasive detection of corpora aliena in the larynx.

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