Original Research

Radiological findings at a South African forensic pathology laboratory in cases of sudden unexpected death in infants

Naomi Fenton-Muir, Kgahlego Kewana, Yenziwe Ngema, Linda Liebenberg, Tania S. Douglas
South African Journal of Radiology | Vol 16, No 1 | a222 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajr.v16i1.222 | © 2012 Naomi Fenton-Muir, Kgahlego Kewana, Yenziwe Ngema, Linda Liebenberg, Tania S. Douglas | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2012 | Published: 07 February 2012

About the author(s)

Naomi Fenton-Muir, University of Cape Town
Kgahlego Kewana, University of Cape Town
Yenziwe Ngema, University of Cape Town
Linda Liebenberg, University of Cape Town
Tania S. Douglas, University of Cape Town, South Africa


The work serves as a preliminary evaluation of the utility of the full-body radiography in examining cases of SUDI.

This paper reviews findings from full-body digital radiography in cases of sudden unexpected death in infants (SUDI) in 2008 at the Salt River Forensic Pathology Laboratory in Cape Town.

Cases of SUDI referred to the mortuary and undergoing full-body digital radiography were reviewed (192 cases).

Imaging reports were cross-referenced with death registry data. Manner of death, cause of death, whether an autopsy had taken place, and radiological findings, were recorded and analysed.

The absence of bony fractures was recorded as an imaging finding in 40% of cases. The most common type of imaging pathology was lung disease. In cases where autopsies were performed and pathology was found on imaging, the findings of the two methods of examination were consistent.

Imaging may have served to assist CoD determination based on case history, and therefore full-body radiography may improve the workflow in busy forensic pathology laboratories.
More detailed and consistent recording of imaging findings is required before stronger conclusions may be drawn regarding the utility of full body digital imaging of paediatric cases in forensic pathology laboratories.


x-ray; low dose; sudden infant death


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