An autopsy is often performed when the cause of someone’s death is unclear – but dissecting the body can be distressing to relatives and is also costly. An alternative is a ‘virtual autopsy’ – marker fluid is injected into an artery and pumped around the body, so that signs of damaged or diseased tissue show up on a scan. The accuracy of this technique is steadily improving. In a recent experiment using a new type of high-contrast marker fluid and computer-enhanced X-ray scanning, the cause of death was correctly diagnosed in 19 out of 20 heart patients. Using this method, even tiny blood vessels buried deep inside the body become visible – in this image of the lower abdomen, they appear as a feathery corona of wispy lines around the large blood vessels.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.