Rigor mortis at the myocardium investigated by post-mortem magnetic resonance imaging

Bonzon, Jérôme; Schön, Corinna; Schwendener, Nicole; Zech, Wolf-Dieter; Kara, Levent; Persson, Anders; Jackowski, Christian (2015). Rigor mortis at the myocardium investigated by post-mortem magnetic resonance imaging. Forensic science international, 257, pp. 93-97. Elsevier Scientific Publ. Ireland 10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.07.039

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Post-mortem cardiac MR exams present with different contraction appearances of the left ventricle in cardiac short axis images. It was hypothesized that the grade of post-mortem contraction may be related to the post-mortem interval (PMI) or cause of death and a phenomenon caused by internal rigor mortis that may give further insights in the circumstances of death.


The cardiac contraction grade was investigated in 71 post-mortem cardiac MR exams (mean age at death 52y, range 12-89y; 48 males, 23 females). In cardiac short axis images the left ventricular lumen volume as well as the left ventricular myocardial volume were assessed by manual segmentation. The quotient of both (LVQ) represents the grade of myocardial contraction. LVQ was correlated to the PMI, sex, age, cardiac weight, body mass and height, cause of death and pericardial tamponade when present. In cardiac causes of death a separate correlation was investigated for acute myocardial infarction cases and arrhythmic deaths.


LVQ values ranged from 1.99 (maximum dilatation) to 42.91 (maximum contraction) with a mean of 15.13. LVQ decreased slightly with increasing PMI, however without significant correlation. Pericardial tamponade positively correlated with higher LVQ values. Variables such as sex, age, body mass and height, cardiac weight and cause of death did not correlate with LVQ values. There was no difference in LVQ values for myocardial infarction without tamponade and arrhythmic deaths.


Based on the observation in our investigated cases, the phenomenon of post-mortem myocardial contraction cannot be explained by the influence of the investigated variables, except for pericardial tamponade cases. Further research addressing post-mortem myocardial contraction has to focus on other, less obvious factors, which may influence the early post-mortem phase too.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Legal Medicine > Forensic Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Bonzon, Jérôme, Schön, Corinna, Schwendener, Nicole, Zech, Wolf-Dieter, Jackowski, Christian


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Elsevier Scientific Publ. Ireland




Antoinette Angehrn

Date Deposited:

09 Sep 2015 14:02

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:49

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Forensic radiology, Heart contraction, Post-mortem imaging, Rigor mortis





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