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The value of post-mortem CT in neonaticide in case of severe decomposition: description of 12 cases

T Sieswerda-Hoogendoorn, V Soerdjbalie-Maikoe, A Maes, R R van Rijn
Forensic Science International 2013 December 10, 233 (1-3): 298-303

INTRODUCTION: In cases of neonaticide with delayed finding of the body, interpretation of autopsy results can be difficult because of decomposition. Postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) has become an increasingly popular tool in the (pediatric) forensic field. We performed a retrospective study to compare the outcome of PMCT with autopsy results in suspected neonaticide, in neonates found more than one week after their demise. We compared the performance of both methods on (1) determining gestational age, (2) differentiating between live birth and still birth and (3) determining cause of death.

METHOD: We selected all consecutive neonaticide cases with an estimated postmortem interval longer than one week, who underwent a forensic autopsy including a total body PMCT in the Netherlands Forensic Institute in the period 2008-2012. Both a pathologist and radiologist scored gestational age, signs of live birth and cause of death for each case.

RESULTS: 22 cases of neonaticide were identified in the study period, of which 15 cases were estimated to be found more than 1 week after death. In 12 of these a total body PMCT was performed. In all cases, late postmortem changes were present. Gestational age could be assessed with PMCT in 100% of the cases and with autopsy in 58% of the cases. In all cases neither PMCT nor autopsy was able to assess live birth and cause of death.

CONCLUSION: PMCT is a better tool for estimating gestational age in case of suspected neonaticide with late postmortem changes compared to autopsy and should therefore be a standard part of the work-up. Signs of live birth and cause of death could not be determined with neither of the methods, an adjusted post mortem examination including limited autopsy for these cases might be developed.


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