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J Clin Pathol. 2002 Jan;55(1):44-50.

Sudden unexplained death in adults caused by intracranial pathology.

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Department of Forensic Medicine and Science, University of Glasgow, University Avenue, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK.


Sudden unexplained deaths as a result of intracranial lesions in adults are an important component of medicolegal practice and are best examined as a combined effort by a forensic pathologist, or a histopathologist experienced in coroner's necropsies, and a neuropathologist. Analysis of case material on file in the University of Glasgow's departments of forensic medicine and science, and neuropathology showed that the principal causes were sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP), intracranial haemorrhage, either natural or after trauma, purulent meningitis or an abscess, and tumours. The mechanisms of death are considered to be the rapid increase of intracranial pressure caused by bleeding into the various compartments of the brain, or an acute obstructive hydrocephalus, and in cases where death is very rapid, autonomic and/or neurochemical dysfunction.

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