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Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2001 Sep;22(3):233-5.

Carbon monoxide poisoning without cherry-red livor.

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Mercy Medical Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52403, USA.


Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning typically causes so-called cherry-red livor of the skin and viscera. The authors report a case of CO poisoning in which cherry-red livor did not develop. The decedent was a 75-year-old white man who was found dead in his car during a cold winter. Blood CO saturation was 86%. The death was attributed to CO poisoning, and the manner of death was designated suicide. The curious absence of cherry-red livor was studied. The decedent's tissue and blood specimens were tested at different temperatures. There was no tendency for either type of specimen to develop cherry-red color at cold or warm temperatures. The antemortem response of the skin to cold possibly sequestered CO-saturated blood in the cadaver. As regards the viscera, there are other proteins to which CO can bond, and possibly these proteins contribute to the development of visceral cherry-red livor. In this case, the absence of cherry-red livor could have led to misclassification of the cause and manner of death. The medicolegal and social consequences of such misclassification can be significant, and psychiatric history, which may be useful to surviving family members, could be lost.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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