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New Automated System Can ID Disaster Victims in Minutes
Date:11/27/2007

It uses software and X-rays to produce fast, accurate results, study says

TUESDAY, Nov. 27 (HealthDay News) -- In a development that could dramatically cut the time needed to identify victims of mass disasters, Japanese researchers have developed an automated identification system that uses X-rays and image-correcting software to produce fast, accurate matches of dental records.

The researchers say the speed and reliability of the computerized approach significantly improves on current dental identification methods, which rely on painstakingly slow body-by-body forensic work.

And the new approach should enable public health workers to better respond to the aftermaths of earthquakes, tsunamis, plane crashes or acts of terrorism, the researchers said.

"In the event that a person's body is damaged beyond recognition -- facial features, clothing, personal possessions -- then often a person's teeth are our last chance to identify the victim," explained study lead author Dr. Eiko Kosuge, a dentist, radiologist and lecturer with the department of oral and maxillofacial radiology at Kanagawa Dental College in Japan. "Teeth are very hearty in nature and tend to keep their features even when the body is severely damaged."

"Manual dental identification works fine when the number of victims are few," she said. "For example, a house fire or single auto accident." However, as the number of victims increases, the time required to identify the bodies increases exponentially, and the risk of identification error increases sharply as well, she added.

Kosuge pointed to the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami disaster and the crash of Japan Air Lines flight 123 in 1985 as two examples of the identification challenges posed by mass disasters. She noted that after the JAL crash, 325 of the 520 victims had to be identified by dental X-rays. In that case, "more than 2,800 doctors, dentists and forensic scientists worked for o
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