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Virtues of the Virtual Autopsy

Medical imaging offers new ways to examine the deceased

Given these issues of cost, radiologists will probably not replace pathologists as final arbiters of cause of death. Still, many pathologists think virtual autopsy is a crucial adjunct to traditional autopsy. And the resulting images, whether rendered on an Anatomage or presented on a laptop, could provide medical students with something they sorely need: an opportunity to participate in a vanishing practice. Anatomage markets its table as a teaching tool that allows students to practice surgery and lengthy dissection techniques, which heretofore required dead bodies.

“So few autopsies are being done now that many medical students get out of school never having seen one,” Davis says. “And yet in medicine, autopsy is the most powerful quality-control technique that we have and the reason we know as much as we do about many diseases and injuries. Using imaging could bring back a familiarity with autopsy, and that is definitely worthwhile.”

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ONLINE
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