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Int J Legal Med. 2013 Jan;127(1):93-102. doi: 10.1007/s00414-012-0722-6. Epub 2012 Jun 5.

Hyperthermia and postmortem biochemical investigations.

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University Centre of Legal Medicine, Rue du Bugnon 21, 1011, Lausanne, Switzerland.


The postmortem diagnosis of heat-related deaths presents certain difficulties. Firstly, preterminal or terminal body temperatures are often not available. Additionally, macroscopic and microscopic findings are nonspecific or inconclusive and depend on survival duration after exposure. The diagnosis of hyperthermia is therefore essentially based on scene investigation, the circumstances of death, and the reasonable exclusion of other causes of death. Immunohistochemistry and postmortem biochemical investigations have been performed by several authors in order to better circumstantiate the physiopathology of hyperthermia and provide further information to confirm or exclude a heat-related cause of death. Biochemical markers, such as electrolytes, hormones, blood proteins, enzymes, and neurotransmitters, have been analyzed in blood and other biological fluids to improve the diagnostic potential of autopsy, histology, and immunohistochemistry. The aim of this article is to present a review of the medicolegal literature pertaining to the postmortem biochemical investigations that are associated with heat-related deaths.

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