Send to

Choose Destination
Forensic Sci Int. 2014 Jan;234:79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2013.10.028. Epub 2013 Oct 31.

Free fatty acids as markers of death from hypothermia.

Author information

Chair and Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University of Lublin, 20-090 Lublin, Poland. Electronic address:
Chair and Department of Forensic Medicine, Medical University of Lublin, 20-090 Lublin, Poland.


The possibilities of using morphological markers of fatal hypothermia are limited; therefore, other diagnostic criteria of deaths from hypothermia are being researched. The initiation of protective mechanisms against adverse effects of low temperatures results in activation of hormonal systems and development of characteristic biochemical changes that can be impaired by alcohol intoxication. The aim of the study was to assess the usefulness of determinations of the profile of free fatty acid concentrations as potential markers of hypothermia-related deaths, particularly in intoxicated victims. The study group consisted of blood samples collected during autopsies of 23 victims of hypothermia. The control group included blood samples collected from 34 victims of sudden, violent deaths at the scene of an incident (hangings and traffic accidents) and 10 victims who died because of post-traumatic subdural hematomas with prolonged agony. The study and control groups were divided into three subgroups according to blood alcohol concentrations: 0.0-0.99; 1.0-2.99 and ≥3.0‰. Statistical analysis in the individual subgroups demonstrated significant increases in concentrations of palmitic, stearic and oleic acids (P<0.05), independent of blood ethanol concentration. Palmitic, stearic and oleic acids can be considered the potential markers of fatal hypothermia, including the cases of intoxicated individuals.


Biochemical markers of hypothermia; Ethanol; Free fatty acids; Post-mortem diagnosis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center