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Sarcoidosis and Mechanisms of Unexpected Death

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Sarcoidosis is a multisystem disease of uncertain etiology characterized by multifocal areas of discrete and confluent granulomatous inflammation that may rarely be responsible for sudden and unexpected death. Two cases are reported to demonstrate disparate pathological features in fatal cases, one involving cardiac sarcoidosis, and the other neurosarcoidosis with hypothalamic infiltration. Sarcoidosis in individuals dying suddenly may be completely unrelated to the death, contributory or causal. Cardiovascular causes of sudden death in sarcoidosis include arrhythmias associated with cardiomyopathy and ischemia, ventricular rupture, and cor pulmonale due to pulmonary hypertension; respiratory causes include hemorrhage and upper airway obstruction; central nervous system causes include arrhythmias from infiltration of autonomic centers, epilepsy, and obstructive hydrocephalus from brainstem involvement; and gastrointestinal deaths may be due to hemorrhage from esophageal varices associated with portal hypertension. The diagnosis relies on the demonstration of typical noncaseating granulomas and the exclusion of other infective and environmental diseases with similar histopathological findings.
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Keywords: forensic science; noncaseating granulomas; sarcoidosis; sudden death

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Discipline of Pathology, The University of Adelaide, Frome Rd, Adelaide, 5005, SA, Australia. 2: Department of Histopathology, Women's and Children's Hospital, 72 King William Rd, North Adelaide 5006, SA, Australia. 3: Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, Charité—Universitätsmedizin Berlin, 10559 Berlin, Germany.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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