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A Study of Drug Detection in a Postmortem Pediatric Population

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At The Office of the Cuyahoga County Coroner (CCCO), Cleveland, Ohio, it is customary to perform an autopsy and conduct toxicological testing on decedents less than 19 years of age. This study provides a retrospective evaluation of drugs detected in a pediatric postmortem population between the years 1998 and 2002 (n = 730). Demographic information, cause and manner of death, and toxicological results were examined. Blacks comprised 54% of cases, males 59%, and 48% were less than one year of age or stillborn. Forty-two percent of deaths were ruled natural, 27% accident, 13% undetermined, 5% suicide, and 2% homicide. Of the 640 cases subjected to comprehensive testing, 38% of the cases were positive for at least one compound. Resuscitative/treatment drugs were detected most frequently (56% of positive results), followed by illicit drugs (26%), ethanol (11%), carbon monoxide (8%), and antihistamines (6%). Eighty-seven cases contained more than one drug. The deaths of 47 individuals were drug related (6%). In this population, it is recommended that illicit drugs and ethanol are targeted for testing, especially when limited specimens are available for analysis.
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Keywords: forensic science; forensic toxicology; pediatric; postmortem

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH 44106.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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