Background: Postmortem examination serves as a tool for confirmation of clinical diagnosis, 'quality' assurance, and education. In Israel, mostly because of religious reasons, most families withhold their permission to perform autopsies. To obtain objective information regarding the death of soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps started in September of 1997 to perform postmortem computed tomographic (PMCT) scans. The purpose of our study is to determine what information can be obtained from the PMCT scans. Methods: In a period of 16 months, 27 soldiers were killed in low-intensity conflicts and PMCT was obtained in 22 cases. Medical data obtained from the field medical care providers were collected and compared with PMCT results. Results: Several examples of patients whose death was determined at the scene either before any medical intervention or after initiation of resuscitative treatment are shown in our study and compared with the clinical impression of the treating physician. Two examples of autopsy results are compared with PMCT results. Gas was detected in various parts of the circulatory system in many cases. The significance of this finding, described in our study for the first time, needs further investigation. Conclusion: PMCT scanning has limits in detecting superficial injuries and injuries of the extremities and determining the exact route of fragments through body tissues in penetrating military trauma. It also cannot serve as a tool for examining ammunition or the protection provided by various armors. However, it can provide a substantial amount of evidence that, when reviewed with the clinical information obtained from the physician at the scene, can help in assessing the treatment given at the field and point toward the probable cause of death.
- Cause of death
- Penetrating trauma
- Postmortem computerized tomography
- Quality assurance