Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

CT best at uncovering drug mule payload, study finds

Date:
December 1, 2010
Source:
Radiological Society of North America
Summary:
According to a study, the best way to detect cocaine in the body of a human drug courier, known as a mule, is through computed tomography.

A 3-D reconstruction (view from anterior inferior / view from the chin up to the forehead) of an incidental finding of three sublingual cocaine pellets in a case of brawl/fist fight with subsequent computed tomography (CT) and scan of the viscerocranium. The patient was immediately put under arrest and transferred to the affiliated custody ward.
Credit: Image courtesy of Radiological Society of North America

According to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), the best way to detect cocaine in the body of a human drug courier, known as a mule, is through computed tomography (CT).

"Cocaine from South America is making its way to Europe through Africa," said Patricia Flach, M.D., a radiologist at University Hospital of Berne and Institute of Forensic Medicine of Berne in Switzerland. "From Africa, drug mules most commonly try to enter the European Union and Switzerland."

When legal authorities suspect an individual of being a drug mule, they often turn to radiologists to help quickly detect the presence of cocaine concealed in the body. Cocaine containers, which may be swallowed or inserted in the vagina or rectum, can be as large as a banana or as small as a blueberry.

"In these cases it is important for us to know that we have identified all the drug containers in a body, both for legal purposes and for the health of the patient," Dr. Flach said. "However, there was no research telling us which imaging modality was best in detecting cocaine containers in the stomach, intestines or other body orifices."

Dr. Flach and colleagues analyzed images from 89 exams performed on 50 suspected drug mules over a three-year period at University Hospital. The study group included 45 men and five women between the ages of 16 and 45. Forty-three of the suspects were ultimately identified as drug mules.

Of the imaging exams conducted, 27 were CT, 50 were digital x-ray and 12 were low-dose linear slit digital radiography (LSDR), an extremely fast, high-resolution, full-body x-ray system primarily used for trauma patients. The radiologic findings were compared with a written record of the drug containers recovered from the feces of suspects.

"As we expected, CT imaging allowed us to see all the drug containers, especially when we knew what to look for," Dr. Flach said.

The results showed that the coating and manufacture of the containers changed their appearance, especially on CT images. Rubber coated condoms filled with cocaine appeared very hyper-dense, or white, on CT, while other containers of similar size with plastic foil wrapping appeared iso- to hypo-dense, or gray to black. This contradicts some previous reports that have suggested image density may correlate with the drug content.

The sensitivity of CT was 100 percent, meaning CT was able to find all cocaine containers that were present in the drug mules' bodies. LSDR had a sensitivity rate of 85 percent, and digital x-ray was able to identify the presence of cocaine containers only 70 percent of the time.

"There were positive findings on CT that were clearly not detectable on x-rays due to overlap of intestinal air, feces or other dense structures," Dr. Flach said.

While CT was clearly the most accurate imaging modality in detecting the drug containers, the increased ionizing radiation associated with the exam is a concern when imaging people who are presumably healthy.

"CT is the way to go," Dr. Flach said. "But low-dose protocols need to be implemented to ensure the safety of the people undergoing the procedure."

Coauthors are Steffen Ross, M.D., Gary Hatch, M.D., Ulrich Preiss, M.D., Thomas Ruder, M.D., Michael Thali, M.D., and Michael Patak, M.D.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Radiological Society of North America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Radiological Society of North America. "CT best at uncovering drug mule payload, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201095550.htm>.
Radiological Society of North America. (2010, December 1). CT best at uncovering drug mule payload, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201095550.htm
Radiological Society of North America. "CT best at uncovering drug mule payload, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101201095550.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A research institute in Paris somehow misplaced more than 2,000 vials of the deadly SARS virus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins