Facing the past– In vivo facial soft tissue depths of a modern adult population from Germany
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/12/2100
Forensic facial reconstruction may be the final option available to draw the public attention in cases where the identity of an individual cannot be established by standard identification methods. Two fundamental components of all forensic facial reconstruction techniques are cranial morphology and soft tissue depths databases. The purpose of this study was to extend such databases by providing a complete set of accurate facial soft tissue thickness measurements, acquired from a contemporary adult population from Germany, for use in forensic facial reconstruction. The aims were to measure the distance between well-defined landmarks on the skull and reference points on the face in a standardised manner, to analyse how sex, age and body mass index (BMI) influence facial soft tissue depths, to identify patterns of facial asymmetry, and to conduct a comparative analysis with other populations. The material for this study consisted of 320 (160 male, 160 female) anonymised multi-slice computerised tomography (MSCT) scans of individuals drawn from a German population. Individuals between the ages of 18 and 84 years were analysed. Their statures varied between 1.50 m and 1.96 m; their weights ranged between 40 kg and 145 kg. The BMI fluctuated between 16.6 kg/m2 and 45.8 kg/m2. Patients with severe trauma or pathologies that may compromise facial soft tissue depth were excluded from the study as were patients known to have been treated with specific medication (e.g. cortisone). In Amira®, 3D models of the surfaces of the skull and the facial skin were semi-automatically segmented using previously calculated thresholds and surface extraction algorithms. The parameters were adjusted to permit semi-transparent visualisation and examination of the structures of both the 3D skull and facial skin surface models simultaneously. Facial soft tissue depth was measured at 10 midline and 28 bilateral anatomical landmarks, according to the main orientations of the skull. Statistical analyses and tests were performed with SPSS® Version 22 and TDStats Version v2015.1. The analysis of facial soft tissue thickness versus BMI, sex and age, for each landmark separately, indicated that, at a number of the landmarks, facial soft tissue depth is significantly (p < 0.05) influenced by all three biometric variables. Facial soft tissue thickness increased with increasing BMI, but the correlations with age were insignificant. The differences between males and females were statistically significant (p < 0.05) for almost all anatomical landmarks with the exception of a few in the region of the nasal root and orbitals. Asymmetry was noted at over half of the bilateral landmarks. The differences between the results from this sample and those obtained from comparable databases contradict the hypothesis that population-specificity significantly influences facial soft tissue thickness. Nevertheless, this and future studies of craniofacial soft tissues will improve our knowledge of the complexity of the human face. The information gathered will be invaluable when considering forensic facial reconstruction methods for neighbouring populations.