The Department of Health – Abu Dhabi (DoH), the regulator of the healthcare sector in the emirate, introduced (Post mortem imaging) virtual autopsy to the local healthcare sector as an indispensable tool in combating COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Virtual autopsy will support the healthcare sector in confirming the cause of death while ensuring the health and safety of individuals who have been in contact with the deceased.
Abu Dhabi has led an effective human-centred response since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and continues to develop early detection strategies and implement various preventive measures. UAE is among a group of countries that adopted virtual autopsy, along with the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia and Japan.
During virtual autopsies, the body of the deceased undergoes clinical radiology or CT scans that are conducted by qualified technicians, using protocols and regulations set by DoH and in line with international practices respecting the sanctity and maintaining the privacy of the bodies. The seamless procedure is conducted while the body is in the cadaver bag (commonly known as a ‘body bag’) and does not subject it to a postmortem physical examination.
DoH and its various health facilities have been at the forefront of adopting innovative medical solutions to enable the community to return to normalcy. Abu Dhabi Central Morgue is integrating virtual autopsy techniques into their investigation procedures. Medical examiners will apply virtual autopsies in order to identify signs of respiratory distress or symptoms that would indicate the possibility of a COVID-19 infection. The diagnosis generated from a virtual autopsy enables medical technicians to determine whether contacts of the deceased require further examination in an effort to limit repercussions. Apart from COVID-19, the advanced technology will contribute to the investigation of various infectious diseases without compromising the safety of the morgue’s staff.
The technology was introduced a year ago in Abu Dhabi and has helped in the legal investigation of over 700 cases. The virtual autopsy image analysis will take 15 to 30 minutes to report. The adoption of virtual autopsy in the UAE will provide healthcare facilities with accurate diagnoses post-examination of bodies. Diagnoses will include cause of death, gender, age group and detection of physical violence.
H.E Dr. Jamal Mohammed Alkaabi, Undersecretary of DoH, said: “The healthcare sector in Abu Dhabi is committed to exploring, developing, and employing some of the latest medical technologies and innovations to combat COVID-19. Abu Dhabi exhibits exemplary leadership when it comes to its human-centred COVID-19 response and world-class healthcare facilities and technologies.”
Dr. Marwan Al Kaabi, Acting Group Chief Operations Officer, SEHA, said: “ In line with SEHA's commitment to equipping the community with world-class healthcare services, we continue to work relentlessly to enhance our quality of services by implementing the highest quality standards and utilizing innovation alongside the latest cutting-edge technologies to provide our patients with services that are quick and efficient. This will allow us to maintain the health and well-being of all members of the community and progress further in the path of success.”
Dr. Nayef Hasan Aljanaahi, the first licensed consultant in forensic radiology for the Department of Health – Abu Dhabi, said: “I take pride in being the first licensed doctor in the Middle East specialised in Forensic Radiology. This would not have been possible were it not for the continuous support and guidance of our wise leadership and their efforts to develop the healthcare sector in the emirate. Virtual autopsy has modernised the medical investigation of bodies while ensuring health and safety of medical staff and contacts of the deceased maintaining respect and privacy towards the bodies of deceased individuals.”