The third mummy, identified as Sylvester, was embalmed with arsenic in the late 1800s and is on exhibit at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop in Seattle, Washington. His mummified remains weighed approximately 80 lb (36.4 kg), which was extremely unusual. Since a body is composed of 70%-80% water, after undergoing dehydration, the weight should be about 20%-30% the premortem weight. One possible explanation is that embalming fixes the proteins and dehydrates the tissues to reduce the effects of decomposition. However, body fat is not affected by the embalming fluid and does not provide fuel for decomposition. Over time, solid fats will liquefy. An inspection of the mummy revealed a "sheen" on the surface of the remains, and it appeared to be moist (Figure 3.63). Analysis of the skin confirmed high levels of arsenic and also lipids. Since on a T1-weighted image fat provides a high signal, MRI could be utilized to further verify the theory that lipids were migrating to the surface.
The remains were imaged on a 1.5 T Avanto scanner (Siemens Medical Systems). The entire body was scanned with small FOVs and matched coils. Sylvester, similar to James Penn, was extremely well preserved. All internal organs had been identified during a previous CT examination and the facial features well retained. The embalming process was so effective that the details of the eye were clearly visible (Figure 3.64). Since the mummy had been embalmed with arsenic, the MRI was more complicated than expected. The heavy metal properties of arsenic made it very difficult to tune in on the resonant frequency. Once tuned, however, the images were satisfactory.
Regions of high signal, white areas on the T1-weighted MR images, were noted in a number of internal and external locations on the multiplanar images (Figures 3.65 and 3.66).
The images appeared to reveal the locations of lipids that had not been affected by the preservation process and probably liquefied. Although the contribution of arsenic cannot be determined at this time, it appeared that the high signal was solely due to the lipids. The margins of the tissues were not sharply defined, because thick slices were necessary to provide enough tissue to get a sufficient signal. To demonstrate anatomical clarity, CT images from the same level were examined.
In all three mummies, MRI was able to generate useful images. Although not acceptable by current clinical standards, the images added valuable information about the condition of the mummies. We were able to determine the presence, structure, and nature of
Figure 3.66 A sagittal MR image close to the midline of the body demonstrated a corresponding high signal from the surface of the back (A), abdomen (B), and the anterior aspect of both arms (C). Internally, once again high signal was noted in the wall of the right ventricle; it was also seen in the region of the annulus fibrosus of the intervertebral disc (E) surrounding an area of low to no signal from what appears to be the nucleus pulposus (F).
many tissues and organs within the body. MRI was also more successful than CT in finding regions of fat deposition and retained moisture and, though not the gold standard, we believe MRI should be included as part of the comprehensive diagnostic evaluation of all mummified remains.
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