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Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2012 Sep;8(3):259-62. doi: 10.1007/s12024-011-9303-0. Epub 2011 Dec 13.

Fatal exsanguination from hemodialysis vascular access sites.

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New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner, 520 First Avenue, New York, NY 10016, USA. JGILL@OCME.NYC.GOV


Exsanguination from hemodialysis vascular sites may cause a rapid death. Due to extensive blood loss at the scene, investigators may initially suspect a homicide or suicide. We reviewed 100 deaths due to hemorrhage from hemodialysis shunt sites. The majority (81%) of these hemorrhages occurred at home and 44% subsequently died at home. Recognition of this medical complication at the scene is important to prevent the dispatch of the crime scene or homicide unit. In these instances, the common causes of kidney failure included hypertensive cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus. The manners of death were certified as therapeutic complication (93%), accident (5%), and suicide (2%). These fatal shunt hemorrhages are rapid and large due to their superficial subcutaneous locations and elevated shunt pressures from the arterial-venous anastamosis. The cause of death statement must include the proximate cause of death, which is usually the disease that resulted in kidney failure, if it is known.

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