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Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2013 Jun;9(2):208-13. doi: 10.1007/s12024-012-9387-1. Epub 2012 Dec 2.

Death following the ingestion of detergent: an autopsy case with special regard to the histochemical findings.

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  • 1Department of Legal Medecine, Osaka City University Medical School, Asahi-machi, 1-4-3, Abeno, Osaka, 545-8585, Japan. m2071101@med.osaka-cu.ac.jp


We report an autopsy case of death due to accidental ingestion of a liquid laundry detergent with special regard to the histochemical findings. A female inpatient suffering from schizophrenia in a psychiatric institution, was found unconscious lying on the floor of her room, with a container of detergent nearby, and died despite intensive life-support measures. At autopsy, the stomach and duodenum contained whitish translucent foamy viscous fluid, and the mucous membranes, from the esophagus to the duodenum, had diffuse erosions with congestion and edema. There was otherwise no significant pathology other than signs of acute death and hemolysis. Toxicological investigations detected 1-methyl-4-prop-1-en-2-ylcyclohexene (detergent additive) in the gastric contents using headspace-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, and a nonionic surfactant by a color identification test. Although these substances could not be detected in the blood, body fluid or viscera, histochemical examination using Oil red O demonstrated droplet-like staining in the pulmonary alveoli, suggesting aspiration of detergent, and similar staining in the vasculature of the lung, Kupffer cells of the liver, Bowman capsules of the kidney, and capillaries of the brain, suggesting the systemic effect of ingested/aspirated detergent. These findings were in keeping with death from ingestion of detergent and demonstrated the importance of preventing accidents such as this in healthcare facilities for elderly people.

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