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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1998 Mar;19(1):72-6.

Weight of adrenal glands may be increased in persons who commit suicide.

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  • 1Institut für Rechtsmedizin der Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg), Erlangen, Germany.

Abstract

In a previous study, increased weight of the adrenal glands was found in a small group of persons who committed violent suicides. This finding was confirmed in our study, which comprised a group of 42 suicide cases and 37 control cases. Further analysis with special consideration toward a "relative adrenal weight" (weight/body surface) revealed that a relative combined adrenal weight >6 g/m2 may be a morphologic sign of a depressive disorder prior to death if no other disease with a known effect on the adrenals is present. These results are consistent with clinical computed tomographic findings of enlarged adrenals in depressed patients. In all suicide cases the police records were reviewed and a postmortem psychiatric diagnosis conducted to investigate whether a correlation between adrenal weight and the "severity" of depression or type of psychiatric disorder exists. In thirteen cases, psychiatric treatment prior to death was known, and a postmortem severity score of depressive disease was formed. No influence of this score or the postmortem diagnosis on the adrenal weight, however, could be detected. Also, the increase in weight of adrenal glands could not be explained by a suspected or proven preceding drug therapy or use. The effect on the pituitary-adrenal-axis by depressive disorders and changes in serotonin metabolism have been investigated repeatedly; mainly reported are increased levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) in the depressive interval, which may lead to a growth of the adrenal glands.

PMID:
9539397
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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