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Forensic Doctors Used 3D Printing Technology To Creat A Low-cost Autopsy Device

Nov 15, 2019

Criminal investigations, abnormal deaths, disaster victims and hospital quality control rely heavily on autopsy. In the field of forensic science, corpses are vital evidence that can provide clues to determine the cause of death. However, the cost of forensic science is often high, which is why a team of experts at the University of Zurich in Switzerland has been developing automated tools for forensic pathology on corpses for several years.

One of the most interesting developments of the team in a series of innovations is the very affordable autopsy computed tomography angiography or PMCTA kit. By combining 3D printing with components in the local hardware store, the team was able to assemble the PMCTA toolkit for $120. The best part is that anyone can find a 3D model that can be printed as an STL file on virtopsy.com as well as the parts and detailed specifications available at the hardware store.

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PMCTA is a useful complement to actual autopsy because it helps to improve the quality of autopsy diagnosis. Moreover, although modern imaging techniques (such as CT and MRI) are commonly used in forensic pathology, PMCTA technology solves other problems, such as soft tissue contrast and poor visibility of the vascular system, so by using contrast agents in the body, the inspector can Identify some possible or potential leaks. According to Wolf Schweitzer, Patricia Mildred Flach, Michael Tari, Patrick Lubbock and Dominique Gascoe at the University of Forensic Medicine and Imaging (PMCTA) The paper entitled "The feasibility of a very economical immersion pump in post-mortem CT angiography". Even in decaying corpses, it can help solve particularly difficult cases of forensic pathology.

Michael Tari, director of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Zurich, said that “a tool like PMCTA is opening up a whole new world of forensics that can accelerate the development of this field” and “by using MRI, CT, biopsy and angiography, we You can see 60% to 80% of the causes of forensic death. ”


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Today, PMCTA is increasingly popular in research and case studies. However, the current commercial solution for an autopsy angiography is a machine that sells for more than $80,000, and an autopsy scanner adds $500 to an expensive bill. Experts at the University of Zurich believe that for many forensic pathologists, such costs are prohibitively high. This is one of the reasons why they came up with the idea of a low-cost PMCTA that can be used by any forensic laboratory worldwide.

The team used hardware store supplies and 3D printing technology to develop an autopsy CT angiography kit that anyone can make and use for $120. They can even upload instructions online instead of patenting the device. Some PMCTA kits require special design and manufacturing. At the design level, the team initially used hybrid parameterization and direct modeling methods, and then transferred the design to a file in STL format for use across different software platforms. They used a 3D printing technique to create a femoral catheter, a cylindrical push device, a barrel tube fixture, and a vascular tourniquet.


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The PMCTA Toolkit is part of the Virtopsy project, a multidisciplinary applied research project developed by forensic scientists at the University of Zurich at the turn of the century to achieve imaging modalities in diagnostic radiology and measurement techniques in forensic science. Since then, the Virtopsy method has become an emerging method that has become the standard procedure for forensic investigations worldwide. In fact, the term Virtopsy has been used in a variety of environments around the world and uses advanced technology to aid and develop forensics. Virtopsy uses computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, optical 3D surface scanning, 3D photogrammetry, and 3D printing to detect and record forensic evidence in the body of the deceased in a minimally invasive and observer-independent manner. It is widely used by investigators in criminal cases and courts.

With 3D printing, experts can create an affordable and powerful toolkit. This kit is easy to fit into a small box, neither big nor heavy. When it comes to reducing costs, the price of this PMCTA toolkit is less than 1% of the current commercial PMCTA on the market. There are so many challenges associated with forensic science, especially in developing countries, where funding is not yet in place, and the lack of forensic pathologists and technologists is a shocking fact, considering so much After the TV show focused on the behind-the-scenes work of CSI and forensic doctors, how popular this field became.

For example, in countries like India, not only do they lack forensic experts, the mortuary lacks basic facilities, and the reference materials are outdated. In addition, in 2017, a mortuary in Barabanki, equipped with a sanitation worker and a doctor on duty, conducted 972 autopsy tests. This is just one example, and many more. Technological advances are a good way to address some of the basic needs of the field, especially when forensic doctors everywhere can download information and build their own kits.