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Fatal Drowning Accident and Undiagnosed Hydrocephalus

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Bodies found in water present several diagnostic challenges for the forensic examiner, such as the identification of the time and mechanism of death, the postmortem submersion time, and above all the circumstances of drowning. We report the case of a 33-year-old security guard found dead in Venice, in the water of the lagoon, who at autopsy presented a previously undiagnosed hydrocephalus with macrocephaly. The victim remained asymptomatic until 2 months before death and had never undergone a neurological or radiological examination. In the article, we emphasize the need to perform a thorough autopsy in all suspected drownings, discuss the etiopathogenesis of the neurological disease and hypothesize a possible relationship between the hydrocephalus and the drowning accident. Finally, we discuss the major clinical and forensic implications of macrocephaly and hydrocephalus in adults.

Keywords: bodies found in water; drowning; forensic pathology; forensic science; hydrocephalus; macrocephaly; reconstruction of the event

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Legal Medicine, University of Padua, Via Falloppio 50, 35121 Padova, Italy. 2: Department of Neurosurgery, Treviso Hospital, University of Padua, Piazzale Ospedale, 1, 31100 Treviso, Italy. 3: Department of Diagnostic Science and Special Therapies, Pathology Unit, University of Padua, Via Giustiniani 2, 35121 Padova, Italy.

Publication date: 2010-05-01

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