Medical Imaging for the Milwaukee Mummy


Medical Imaging

Veronica Orlovits has waited over 200 years for her CT scan to confirm cause of death;  tuberculosis.

The mummy of Veronica Orlovits was discovered in Hungary, along with the mummies of her husband and young son. Although given a normal burial, the dry air of the crypt and the oil from the pine shavings that lined the coffins mummified the bodies, giving modern scientists a rare opportunity to apply modern medical technology – including medical imaging technology – to a well-preserved body from the past.

The mummies of Veronica and her family traveled from the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest to St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for their CT scans. In addition to confirming the presence of diseases like tuberculosis, a CT scan can help determine the age of a person when they died and the health of teeth, bones and internal organs at the time of death.

Veronica, her husband, and son join a long list of other mummies that have undergone CT scans. In 2005, King Tut’s CT scans revealed that he had died of a gangrenous broken leg and not, as a previous x-ray had suggested, by a (possibly murderous) blow to the head.

For historians and archeologists, CT scans and other medical imaging techniques are particularly valuable because they provide a permanent, three-dimensional electronic record of a mummy, which is a significant step up from two-dimensional x-rays. Moreover, CT scans of mummies and other archeological objects are non-invasive and non-destructive. Veronica’s mummy and other artifacts can be preserved for future generations and future research.

What does this have to do with medical imaging in modern healthcare? Since we celebrate the use of medical imaging technology in all fields, we’d thought we’d share this interesting story with you.

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