Virtual autopsies save time and money in Schuylkill County

CAT Scan is less invasive, cheaper and faster

NEW PHILADELPHIA, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) -- If you're a Star Trek fan, you've seen Dr. Bones McCoy pull out a medical scanner, run it over the body and give a diagnosis. Well, in a way, that futuristic technology has arrived.
    
Virtual autopsies have landed in Schuylkill County.


"We're not quite to Star Trek level just yet, but we're definitely like NCIS," said Dr. David Moylan, Schuylkill County coroner.

A computerized axial tomography or -- CAT scan -- has been donated to the coroner's office for the sole purpose of postmortem examinations. It allows Dr. Moylan and his staff to perform less invasive, cheaper and faster autopsies.


"Sometimes we'll wait 60 to 90 days to get the traditional autopsy reports, but with this we can have in a couple of hours," said Moylan.

Here's how it works. The deceased is placed on this table in a body bag. The scanner takes x-rays of the body. Detectors analyze the densities, and the images are studied to determine the cause and manner of death.

This approach reduces the need for open autopsies.


"It's quite a savings compared to the traditional approach," said Moylan.

An open autopsy costs the county about two-thousand dollars, where as a virtual autopsy costs less than two-hundred dollars.


In some cases, if the scan doesn't produce enough information, the patient will still need to have the traditional autopsy.

For health issues like a blood clot to the lungs, Dr. Moylan says an open autopsy is the best choice. But for something like coronary artery disease -- the virtual autopsy will show calcium build up around the heart. The CAT scanner also allows them to measure the size of organs -- which can point out a problem like high blood pressure.

Dr. Moylan says virtual autopsies will be especially useful when it comes to overdose deaths, allowing them to eliminate other causes of death.


"We are definitely leading the pack here," said Moylan.

A virtual autopsy can also help identify "John/Jane Does." The donated scanner saves the county about one million dollars. The coroner's office plans to do its first virtual autopsy in March.

 

 

 


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