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Morphometric Investigation of Death by Asphyxia

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The aim of this study was to investigate the possibility of distinguishing deaths by asphyxia from those due to natural causes by comparing morphometric measurements in lungs. The study population comprised 27 subjects: 14 cases of death by asphyxia (hanging or drowning) and 13 cases of sudden natural death. Eighty parenchyma sections were used for each subject. Data were collected by computerized image analysis. Measurements aimed at quantifying, as percentages, pulmonary parenchyma (mean values of positive-fraction areas [PFA] and their standard deviations). Subjects who died of natural causes and of drowning showed a relative internal homogeneity compared to those who hanged. Results show significant discrimination between drowned subjects and those dying of natural causes (mean of PFA p = 0.01) and between hanged and drowned subjects (SD of PFA p = 0.04). Attention must be paid to the possible role played by senile emphysema. The method is proposed as a complementary tool in forensic cases.
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Keywords: asphyxia; differential diagnosis; drowning; forensic pathology; forensic science; hanging; morphometry; quantitative pathology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Sezione di Medicina Legale, Università Politecnica delle Marche, Ancona, 60126 Italy. 2: Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e Terapie Avanzate, Sezione di Medicina Legale, Università di Ferrara, 44100 Ferrara, Italy. 3: Dipartimento di Scienze Chirurgiche ed Oncologiche, Sezione di Patologia, Università di Padova, 35128 Padova, Italy.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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