The radiodensity of cerebrospinal fluid and vitreous humor as indicator of the time since death

Desiree H. J. L. M. Koopmanschap, Alireza R. Bayat, Bela Kubat, Henri M. de Bakker, Mathias W. M. Prokop, Willemijn M. Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


After death, a series of changes occur naturally in the human body in a fairly regular pattern. These postmortem changes are detectable on postmortem CT scans (PMCT) and may be useful in estimating the postmortem interval (PMI). The purpose of our study is to correlate the PMCT radiodensities of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and vitreous humor (VH) to the PMI. Three patient groups were included: group A consisted of 5 donated cadavers, group B, 100 in-hospital deceased patients, and group C, 12 out-of-hospital forensic cadavers. Group A were scanned every hour for a maximum of 36 h postmortem, and the tympanic temperature was measured prior to each scan. Groups B and C were scanned once after death (PMI range 0.2-63.8 h). Radiodensities of the VH and CSF were measured in Hounsfield units. Correlation between density and PMI was determined using linear regression and the influence of temperature was assessed by a multivariate regression model. Results from group A were validated in groups B and C. Group A showed increasing radiodensity of the CSF and VH over time (r (2) CSF, 0.65). PMI overruled the influence of temperature (r = 0.99 and p = 0.000). Groups B and C showed more diversity, with CSF and VH radiodensities below the mean regression line of Group A. The formula of this upper limit indicated the maximum PMI and was correct for > 95 % of the cadavers. The results of group A showed a significant correlation between CSF radiodensity and PMI. The radiodensities in groups B and C were higher than in group A, therefore the maximum PMI can be estimated with the upper 95 % confidence interval of the correlation line of group A.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-256
JournalForensic Science Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


  • Postmortem computed tomography
  • Radiodensity
  • Cerebrospinal fluid
  • Vitreous humor
  • Postmortem interval

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