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Concept: Autopsy


In retired professional association football (soccer) players with a past history of repetitive head impacts, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a potential neurodegenerative cause of dementia and motor impairments. From 1980 to 2010, 14 retired footballers with dementia were followed up regularly until death. Their clinical data, playing career, and concussion history were prospectively collected. Next-of-kin provided consent for six to have post-mortem brain examination. Of the 14 male participants, 13 were professional and 1 was a committed amateur. All were skilled headers of the ball and had played football for an average of 26 years. Concussion rate was limited in six cases to one episode each during their careers. All cases developed progressive cognitive impairment with an average age at onset of 63.6 years and disease duration of 10 years. Neuropathological examination revealed septal abnormalities in all six post-mortem cases, supportive of a history of chronic repetitive head impacts. Four cases had pathologically confirmed CTE; concomitant pathologies included Alzheimer’s disease (N = 6), TDP-43 (N = 6), cerebral amyloid angiopathy (N = 5), hippocampal sclerosis (N = 2), corticobasal degeneration (N = 1), dementia with Lewy bodies (N = 1), and vascular pathology (N = 1); and all would have contributed synergistically to the clinical manifestations. The pathological diagnosis of CTE was established in four individuals according to the latest consensus diagnostic criteria. This finding is probably related to their past prolonged exposure to repetitive head impacts from head-to-player collisions and heading the ball thousands of time throughout their careers. Alzheimer’s disease and TDP-43 pathologies are common concomitant findings in CTE, both of which are increasingly considered as part of the CTE pathological entity in older individuals. Association football is the most popular sport in the world and the potential link between repetitive head impacts from playing football and CTE as indicated from our findings is of considerable public health interest. Clearly, a definitive link cannot be established in this clinico-pathological series, but our findings support the need for further systematic investigation, including large-scale case-control studies to identify at risk groups of footballers which will justify for the implementation of protective strategies.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Pathology, Parkinson's disease, Dementia, Lewy body, Autopsy, Cerebral amyloid angiopathy, Football


Current methods for estimating maternal mortality lack precision, and are not suitable for monitoring progress in the short run. In addition, national maternal mortality ratios (MMRs) alone do not provide useful information on where the greatest burden of mortality is located, who is concerned, what are the causes, and more importantly what sub-national variations occur. This paper discusses a maternal death surveillance and response (MDSR) system. MDSR systems are not yet established in most countries and have potential added value for policy making and accountability and can build on existing efforts to conduct maternal death reviews, verbal autopsies and confidential enquiries. Accountability at national and sub-national levels cannot rely on global, regional and national retrospective estimates periodically generated from academia or United Nations organizations but on routine counting, investigation, sub national data analysis, long term investments in vital registration and national health information systems. Establishing effective maternal death surveillance and response will help achieve MDG 5, improve quality of maternity care and eliminate maternal mortality (MMR <= 30 per 100,000 by 2030).

Concepts: Death, Demography, Value added, Maternal death, United Nations, Autopsy, Millennium Development Goals, Perinatal mortality


Currently, only presumptive diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) can be made in living patients. We present a modality that may be instrumental to the definitive diagnosis of CTE in living patients based on brain autopsy confirmation of [F-18]FDDNP-PET findings in an American football player with CTE. [F-18]FDDNP-PET imaging was performed 52 mo before the subject’s death. Relative distribution volume parametric images and binding values were determined for cortical and subcortical regions of interest. Upon death, the brain was examined to identify the topographic distribution of neurodegenerative changes. Correlation between neuropathology and [F-18]FDDNP-PET binding patterns was performed using Spearman rank-order correlation. Mood, behavioral, motor, and cognitive changes were consistent with chronic traumatic myeloencephalopathy with a 22-yr lifetime risk exposure to American football. There were tau, amyloid, and TDP-43 neuropathological substrates in the brain with a differential topographically selective distribution. [F-18]FDDNP-PET binding levels correlated with brain tau deposition (rs = 0.59, P = .02), with highest relative distribution volumes in the parasagittal and paraventricular regions of the brain and the brain stem. No correlation with amyloid or TDP-43 deposition was observed. [F-18]FDDNP-PET signals may be consistent with neuropathological patterns of tau deposition in CTE, involving areas that receive the maximal shearing, angular-rotational acceleration-deceleration forces in American football players, consistent with distinctive and differential topographic vulnerability and selectivity of CTE beyond brain cortices, also involving midbrain and limbic areas. Future studies are warranted to determine whether differential and selective [F-18]FDDNP-PET may be useful in establishing a diagnosis of CTE in at-risk patients.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Cognition, Cerebral cortex, Mesencephalon, Autopsy, American football


Drowning is infrequently reported as a cause of death of wild birds and such incidents typically involve individual, rather than multiple, birds. Over a 21-year period (1993 to 2013 inclusive), we investigated 12 incidents of mortality of multiple (2 - 80+) Common starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) in Great Britain that appeared to be due to drowning. More than ten birds were affected in ten of these reported incidents. These incidents always occurred during the spring and early summer months and usually involved juvenile birds. In all cases, circumstantial evidence and post-mortem examinations indicated drowning to be the most likely cause of death with no underlying disease found. A behavioural explanation seems likely, possibly related to the gregarious nature of this species combined with juvenile inexperience in identifying water hazards. A review of data from the ringed bird recovery scheme across Great Britain (1909-2013 inclusive) of both starlings and Common blackbirds (Turdus merula), also a common garden visitor, identified additional suspected drowning incidents, which were significantly more common in the former species, supporting a species predisposition to drowning. For each species there was a marked seasonal peak from April to August. Drowning should be included as a differential diagnosis when investigating incidents of multiple starling mortality, especially of juveniles.

Concepts: Death, Bird, Autopsy, Evidence, Circumstantial evidence, European Starling, Starling, Bird migration


To determine the hospital autopsy rate for the UK in 2013.

Concepts: United Kingdom, Autopsy, Decolonization


In forensic medicine, there is an undefined data background for the phenomenon of re-establishment of rigor mortis after mechanical loosening, a method used in establishing time since death in forensic casework that is thought to occur up to 8 h post-mortem. Nevertheless, the method is widely described in textbooks on forensic medicine. We examined 314 joints (elbow and knee) of 79 deceased at defined time points up to 21 h post-mortem (hpm). Data were analysed using a random intercept model. Here, we show that re-establishment occurred in 38.5% of joints at 7.5 to 19 hpm. Therefore, the maximum time span for the re-establishment of rigor mortis appears to be 2.5-fold longer than thought so far. These findings have major impact on the estimation of time since death in forensic casework.

Concepts: Disease, Death, Joints, Suicide, Autopsy, Rigor mortis, Cadaveric spasm


Massive enlargement of an ovarian cyst is an uncommon cause of morbidity and a rare cause of mortality due in large to part to noninvasive imaging techniques that usually permit early detection. When an ovarian cyst reaches giant proportions, it produces abdominal enlargement often with a fluid wave resulting in a condition that mimics ascites, called pseudoascites. Despite their impressive appearances, such cysts often are operable for cure. We describe a case of a middle-aged woman who presented 3 years before her death with symptoms from an undiagnosed giant cyst and given a diagnosis of ascites of undetermined etiology. She subsequently died at home unexpectedly, and at autopsy, she was found to have a massively enlarged but otherwise benign mucinous cystadenoma.

Concepts: Disease, Causality, Death, Pathology, Ovarian cyst, Pelvis, Cyst, Autopsy


Forensic toxicological data provides valuable insight into the potential contribution of alcohol and drugs to external-cause deaths. There is a paucity of material that guides injury researchers on the principles that need to be considered when examining the presence and contribution of alcohol and drugs to these deaths. This paper aims to describe and discuss strengths and limitations of postmortem forensic toxicology sample selection, variations in analytical capabilities and data interpretation for injury prevention research. Issues to be considered by injury researchers include: the circumstances surrounding death (including the medical and drug use history of the deceased person); time and relevant historical factors; postmortem changes (including redistribution and instability); laboratory practices; specimens used; drug concentration; and attribution of contribution to death. This paper describes the range of considerations for testing and interpreting postmortem forensic toxicology, particularly when determining impairment or toxicity as possible causal factors in injury deaths. By describing these considerations, this paper has application to decisions about study design and case inclusion in injury prevention research, and to the interpretation of research findings.

Concepts: Scientific method, Death, Research, Toxicology, Drug addiction, Toxicity, Autopsy, Forensic toxicology


Existing organ weight charts used by pathologists for patients undergoing medical autopsy do not illustrate the effect of obesity and age on organ weights among a general population of older individuals with multiple comorbidities.

Concepts: Death, Biology, Obesity, Mass, Body mass index, Body shape, Autopsy, Weight


OBJECTIVES: The principal aim of our study was to establish concordance between post-mortem CT (PMCT) and forensic standard autopsy (SA) in detecting lesions according to different anatomical regions. A secondary aim was to determine the efficacy of PMCT in showing lethal lesions. METHODS: PMCTs were compared with autopsies in 236 cadavers in different contexts of death. PMCT findings were assessed by two independent radiologists. RESULTS: Concordance between PMCT and autopsy was almost perfect in showing skull, basal skull and hyoid bone fractures as well as in detecting facial, vertebral or pelvic fractures. Both examinations were discordant in demonstrating some intracranial injuries, vascular or organ wounds (more findings showed by autopsy), as well in showing free air in anatomical cavities (more findings detected by PMCT). Moreover, PMCT was effective in determining lethal lesions in the context of craniofacial trauma or after a gunshot wound. Concordance between the findings of the two radiologists was almost perfect for each type of lesion. CONCLUSION: PMCT could be considered as effective as SA in determining the cause of death in certain traumatic events. It was also effective in showing lethal lesions and could be a useful tool in reducing the number of SA. KEY POINTS : • Post-mortem CT is increasingly performed as an alternative/adjunct to formal autopsy. • More modern CT systems provide greater anatomical scope. • PMCT can usually determine the cause of most deaths following trauma. • Prospective studies are still required to establish an algorithm for forensic CT.

Concepts: Bone, Death, Anatomical pathology, Injuries, Wound, Virtopsy, Autopsy, Embalming