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An Unusual Case of Sudden Unexpected Death: Postmortem Investigation and Biomechanical Analysis of the Cervical Spine

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A naked man died under peculiar circumstances and the postmortem examination revealed unexpected lesions in the cervical spine. Investigations of the cervical spine (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and histological examination) showed that a piece of bone was torn of the anterior part of vertebra C6 and that there was fresh bleeding in the surrounding tissue. The cause of death remained unclear but was most likely cardiac arrhythmia initiated by -2 agonist inhalation due to an acute asthmatic attack. Data from biomechanical investigation using finite element analysis supported the conclusion that the cervical spine injury was secondary to impact during falling as a consequence of the cardiac arrhythmia.
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Keywords: adrenergic -agonists; arrhythmia; asthma; case report; finite element analysis; forensic science; metered dose inhalers; spinal fracture; sudden death; terbutaline

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark 2: Department of Orthodontics, School of Dentistry, University of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark.

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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