Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as a Tool for Positive Identification from Frontal Sinus Radiographs

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Jenna Watson


Frontal sinus radiographs are frequently used to identify human remains. However, the method of visually comparing antemortem (AM) to postmortem (PM) cranial radiographs has been criticized for being a subjective approach that relies on practitioner experience, training, and judgment rather than on objective, quantifiable procedures with published error rates. The objective of this study was to explore the use of ArcMap and its spatial analysis tool, Similarity Search, as a quantifiable, reliable, and reproducible method for identifying frontal sinus matches from cranial radiographs. Using cranial radiographs of 100 individuals from the William M. Bass Donated
Skeletal Collection, the frontal sinuses were digitized to create two-dimensional polygons. Similarity Search was evaluated on its ability to identify the correct AM radiograph using three variables: the number of scallops and the area and perimeter values of the polygons. Using all three variables, Similarity Search correctly identified the true match AM polygon in 58% of the male groups and in 62% of the female groups. These results indicate that ArcMap can be used with frontal sinus radiographs. However, further analysis of the three variables revealed that scallop number did not provide sufficient information about frontal sinus shape to increase the accuracy of Similarity Search, and area and perimeter only captured the size of the frontal sinus polygons, not shape. This research is a first step in developing a user-friendly, quantifiable frontal sinus comparison method for the purpose of positive identification.

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