Postmortem 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the skeletal muscle: α-ATP/Pi ratio as a forensic tool?

Tony M. Schmidt, Zhiyue J. Wang, Sarah Keller, Axel Heinemann, Suzan Acar, Joachim Graessner, Bjoern P. Schoennagel, Gerhard Adam, Roland Fischer, Jin Yamamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Purpose: Phosphor magnetic resonance spectroscopy (31P MRS) is an established method for metabolic examinations of resting and exercising skeletal muscle. So far, there are few MRS investigations of human corpses. The aim of this study was to investigate the temporal postmortem pattern of phosphor metabolites in the adductor magnus muscle and to check the value of MRS as a forensic tool, especially for the determination of the time of death. Material and methods: Eight corpses, died of natural cause, were examined (5 males, 3 females; age: 73±7y, weight 65.8±15.9kg). A control group of 3 subjects (2 males, 1 female, mean age: 51±24y, range: 24-69y, mean body weight: 84.0±16.5kg) was examined at a single time point as well. 31P MRS was performed on a 1.5T MRI (TR 700ms, TE 0.35ms, averages 256, flip angle 90°). A standard 31P/1H heart/liver coil was employed (receiver coil diameter 12cm). The 31P MRS scans were repeated in intervals of 1h over a period from 4.5 to 24h postmortem (p.m.). The core temperature was rectally measured throughout the MRI examination. Results: The mean core temperature decreased from 36.0. °C to 25.7. °C. In vivo and ex vivo spectra showed characteristic differences, especially the PCr metabolite was no longer detectable after 10. h p.m. The α-ATP/Pi ratio decreased with time from 0.445 to 0.032 over 24. h p.m. Conclusion: There is a characteristic postmortem time pattern of the phosphor metabolites. Especially the acquired α-ATP/Pi ratio could be described by a significant exponential time course (r2=0.92, p<0.001). 31P MRS might be added to the postmortem imaging methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-176
Number of pages5
JournalForensic Science International
StatePublished - Sep 2014


  • 31P MRS
  • Forensic
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Postmortem
  • Spectroscopy
  • Time of death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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