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Pacemaker/Defibrillator Evaluation at Los Angeles County Department of Coroner

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Pacemakers and implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are implanted medical devices for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias. These devices are now commonly encountered in the postmortem situation. The Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner uses the services of a cardiac electrophysiology consultant to interrogate pacemakers and ICDs, producing a detailed picture of the cardiac events recorded by the device. We have used this method to evaluate 20 cases where the ICD or pacemaker provided significant information. We report four forensic cases to illustrate the different applications of pacemaker interrogation and its contribution in forensic investigation. This technique was used to establish identification of the decedent, to determine the cause and time of death, and to determine whether device malfunction could have played a role in the death. We conclude that detailed evaluation of the pacemaker or ICD in selected cases may provide essential information to the forensic pathologist.
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Keywords: forensic pathology; forensic science; pacemaker

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Service de Médecine Légale, Hôpital Trousseau, Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire de Tours, 37044 Tours Cedex 1, France. 2: Forensic Medicine, Department of Coroner, 1104 North Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90033. 3: Chief Forensic Laboratories, Department of Coroner, 1104 North Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90033. 4: UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center, Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 47-123 CHS, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1679. 5: Florida Cardiology, 17820 SE 109th Avenue, Suite 110, Summerfield, FL 34491. 6: Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner, Department of Coroner, 1104 North Mission Road, Los Angeles, CA 90033.

Publication date: September 1, 2008

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