A Significant Diagnostic Method in Torture Investigation: Bone Scintigraphy

A Significant Diagnostic Method in Torture Investigation: Bone Scintigraphy


Torture appears to be a permanent feature in countries, which have experienced military coups or ruled by oppressive governments in the past, such as Turkey. The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) was established in 1990 to serve torture victims, mainly those who were the victims of the 1980 military regime. Since then the HRFT has been providing rehabilitation and documentation for torture survivors. Bone scintigraphy can be one of the diagnostic methods to reveal trauma, particularly after several years when it is challenging to find any physical or radiological evidence. The HRFT’s Istanbul Branch referred 97 of their applicants for bone scintigraphy between 1992 and 2010. In this retrospective survey of 97 cases, 17 of them were female and 80 of them were male.

Several aspects were evaluated, including working conditions, change of torture methods practiced in certain time periods, time since torture and duration of exposure to torture in comparison with findings of bone scintigraphies. The torture methods varied from beating to falanga, electric shock, suspension and several other types of torture within the period of practice, although beating was a common denominator among all. The findings were classified according to time since torture and duration of exposure to torture. More than half of the cases (59%) had a detectable bone lesion on bone scintigraphy, and the detectable bone lesion on scintigraphy increased significantly with the duration of exposure to torture, particularly among cases who had been subjected to torture for a longer period (8 days and more).

Bone scintigraphy should be considered as a valuable non-invasive diagnostic method to assess and document long term torture practices and/or cases with no detectable marks upon physical examination.



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