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J Forensic Sci. 2012 Jan;57(1):126-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1556-4029.2011.01957.x. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

Basal renal tubular epithelial cell vacuolization and alcoholic ketoacidosis.

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  • 1The University of Adelaide Medical School, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.


Subnuclear renal tubular epithelial cell vacuolization is a marker for diabetic ketoacidosis. Whether it is because of hyperglycemia or of ketoacidosis is unclear. To examine the effect of ketoacidosis on renal cells in isolation, five cases of lethal alcoholic ketoacidosis without hyperglycemia were examined (vitreous humor β-hydroxybutyrate: 6.42-8.75 mM, mean 7.66 mM; and glucose: 0.1-4.2 mM, mean 1.46 mM). Microscopic examination of the kidneys revealed basal vacuoles in three cases (60%). Seven control cases with acute alcohol toxicity without ketoacidosis (blood alcohol: 0.18-0.43%, mean 0.31%; and β-hydroxybutyrate: 0.12-0.42 mM, mean 0.21 mM) did not have these changes. In this study, basal epithelial vacuolization was found only in cases with significant ketoacidosis. Although the numbers are small, the finding of basal renal tubular epithelial vacuolization in normoglycemic cases with elevated β-hydroxybutyrate levels provide further evidence that disordered lipid metabolism may be involved in the pathogenesis of this phenomenon.

© 2011 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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