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Med Sci Law. 2002 Jan;42(1):10-3.

Fulminant heart failure due to selenium deficiency cardiomyopathy (Keshan disease).

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  • 1Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, Southbank, Australia.


Selenium deficiency is a rare cause of cardiomyopathy that may be encountered by the forensic pathologist. Selenium deficiency is associated with a cardiomyopathy, myopathy and osteoarthropathy. In Asia and Africa, dietary selenium deficiency is associated with a cardiomyopathy known as Keshan disease and an osteoarthropathy called Kashin-Beck disease. Chronic selenium deficiency may also occur in individuals with malabsorption and long term selenium-deficient parenteral nutrition. Selenium deficiency causes myopathy as a result of the depletion of selenium-associated enzymes which protect cell membranes from damage by free radicals. We present a case of fulminant heart failure in a middle aged woman with a complex medical and surgical history including documented malabsorption and selenium deficiency. Pathological examination of the heart showed features consistent with Keshan disease.

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