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Forensic Sci Int. 2009 May 30;187(1-3):42-6. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2009.02.014. Epub 2009 Mar 21.

Heroin-associated myocardial damages--conventional and immunohistochemical investigations.

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Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bonn, Stiftsplatz 12, D-53111 Bonn, Germany.


Well-known complications related to drug abuse are myocardial insufficiency, myocardial infarction, endocarditis, myocarditis, aortic dissection, neurologic damages, ischemic colitis, thrombotic phenomenons, renal infarction and acute liver failure. Furthermore, microfocal fibrosis of the myocardium is found in stimulant abuse. The origin of myocardial fibrosis associated with opiate abuse (endocarditis, myocarditis, embolism) is still unclear. This question shall be investigated using immunohistochemical staining for early diagnosis of myocarditis. A quantification of myocardial interstitial leucocytic infiltrates was accomplished in 21 chronic drug abusers who died of heroin/morphine intoxication and compared to 15 normal subjects who died suddenly due to non-cardiac causes of death without intoxication (e.g. traffic accidents, head trauma). Toxicological investigations were performed and in addition, blood samples were checked to clarify the status of HIV, hepatitis A, B and C in both groups. To verify signs of inflammation, myocardial specimen from different locations were investigated with conventional histological stainings and immunohistochemical techniques for characterization and quantification of interstitial myocardial leucocytes, T-lymphocytes and macrophages. The number of cells were found up to fivefold increased in heroin addicts compared to the control group without reaching the cut-off values for immunohistochemically based diagnosis of myocarditis.

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