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Second opinion system for sudden cardiac death cases in forensic practice


Sabatasso, Sara; Banz, Yara; Ringger, Rebekka; Visonà, Silvia; Schyma, Christian; Bolliger, Stephan A; Michaud, Katarzyna (2020). Second opinion system for sudden cardiac death cases in forensic practice. International journal of legal medicine, 134(3):1255-1263.

Abstract

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) represents a considerable percentage of cardiovascular deaths worldwide. The most frequent pathological substrate of SCD is atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD). The other, less common, pathologies which can cause SCD include cardiomyopathies, congenital diseases (including abnormal anatomy), and arrhythmias such as channelopathies, many of which are genetically determined. Autopsies of SCD victims are generally performed by forensic pathologists. In some cases, a third person responsibility could be invoked. While CAD diagnosis at post-mortem examination is not a major challenge for the forensic pathologist, the other rarer diseases may be. In such instances, referral of the hearts to specialized centers with recognized expertise is recommended, and this is particularly important in cases of SCDs of young people. Moreover, in order to avoid the frequent overdiagnosis of a pathological heart, an expert opinion should be sought for even in the presence of a morphologically normal heart. In cases where retention of the heart is not feasible, it is essential to provide an extensive photographic documentation, with the indication of the sampling sites for histological examination. However, some practical aspects, as the criteria for case selection in routine forensic practice are missing. In this paper, we present the recommendations for heart retention for a second expert opinion and the alternative of documentation and sampling for cases where retention is not possible.

Abstract

Sudden cardiac death (SCD) represents a considerable percentage of cardiovascular deaths worldwide. The most frequent pathological substrate of SCD is atherosclerotic coronary artery disease (CAD). The other, less common, pathologies which can cause SCD include cardiomyopathies, congenital diseases (including abnormal anatomy), and arrhythmias such as channelopathies, many of which are genetically determined. Autopsies of SCD victims are generally performed by forensic pathologists. In some cases, a third person responsibility could be invoked. While CAD diagnosis at post-mortem examination is not a major challenge for the forensic pathologist, the other rarer diseases may be. In such instances, referral of the hearts to specialized centers with recognized expertise is recommended, and this is particularly important in cases of SCDs of young people. Moreover, in order to avoid the frequent overdiagnosis of a pathological heart, an expert opinion should be sought for even in the presence of a morphologically normal heart. In cases where retention of the heart is not feasible, it is essential to provide an extensive photographic documentation, with the indication of the sampling sites for histological examination. However, some practical aspects, as the criteria for case selection in routine forensic practice are missing. In this paper, we present the recommendations for heart retention for a second expert opinion and the alternative of documentation and sampling for cases where retention is not possible.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Legal Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:340 Law
610 Medicine & health
510 Mathematics
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Pathology and Forensic Medicine
Uncontrolled Keywords:Pathology and Forensic Medicine
Language:English
Date:1 May 2020
Deposited On:26 Feb 2020 10:17
Last Modified:24 Apr 2020 01:07
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0937-9827
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-019-02225-8
PubMed ID:31915964

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