VIDEO: Non-invasive autopsies launched in Sheffield

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Centuries-old methods to examine bodies at post-mortem examinations could soon be a thing of the past, with the launch of a new ‘digital autopsy’.

The invasive nature of autopsies has remained largely unchanged for 400 years – but now Sheffield is at the forefront of a revolution which could see the procedures being conducted using a scanner, rather than a scalpel.

A Digital Autopsy Centre has opened in Sheffield bringing post mortem techniques into the 21st century. UK Facilities Director for Hygiene, Tony Simpson viewing the digital information

A Digital Autopsy Centre has opened in Sheffield bringing post mortem techniques into the 21st century. UK Facilities Director for Hygiene, Tony Simpson viewing the digital information

The first £3 million state-of-the-art facility opens today and will be the first of a £50m investment to build 18 centres across the country.

Professor Peter Vanezis, chief forensic medical officer for iGene in the UK, said: “When families lose a loved one, the thought their body is being dissected can be very uncomfortable.

“This technology enables us to see exactly where problems are in the body and will allow us to carry out less invasive and more dignified autopsies. Eventually there will be no need for a physical autopsy in many cases.”

The technology allows pathologists to see 3D images of a body on screen and carry out post mortems using a computer mouse.

The technology uses a CT scanner to take 3,400 cross-sections of the body before creating a 3D image of the body. It can then be viewed from any angle or cross-section and any unusual findings are automatically marked.

The representation that appears on screen is so accurate, pathologists can identify problems – zooming in if required – and accurately decide what has caused death.

Council leader Coun Julie Dore, who attended the opening, said: “Sheffield has always prided itself in being at the forefront of modern technology and for embracing pioneering work in the medical field. Yet again we can celebrate another achievement.

“There are countless families who will benefit from our city having this facility.”

“I am also pleased that we have been able to secure the new £3m Sheffield centre at no cost to the Council and I welcome iGene to our city in this ground breaking deal. The facility will train and support the pathology team in the region as well as recruiting up to 14 other highly-skilled support staff to work along-side them.”.