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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Sep;203(3):468-75. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.12063.

Postmortem CT appearance of gas collections in fatal diving accidents.

Author information

1
1 Laboratoire d'Imagerie Interventionnelle Expérimentale, Aix-Marseille Université, 27 Blvd Jean Moulin, 13385 Marseille cedex 5, France.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

The purpose of our study was to define the postmortem CT semiology of gas collections linked to putrefaction, postmortem "off-gassing," and decompression illness after fatal diving accidents and to establish postmortem CT diagnostic criteria to distinguish the different causes of death in diving.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS:

A 4-year prospective study was conducted including cases of death during diving. A hyperbaric physician analyzed the circumstances of death and the dive profile, and an autopsy was performed. Subjects were divided into three groups according to the analysis from their dive profile: decompression illness, death after decompression dive without decompression illness, and death after nondecompression dive without decompression illness. Full-body postmortem CT was performed before autopsy.

RESULTS:

The presence of intraarterial gas associated with death by decompression illness had a negative predictive value (NPV) of 100%, but the positive predictive value (PPV) was only 54% because of postmortem off-gassing. The PPV reached 70% when considering pneumatization of the supraaortic trunks. Pneumothorax, subcutaneous emphysema, and intraarterial gas, all of which are classic criteria for decompression illness diagnosis, are not specific for decompression illness.

CONCLUSION:

This study is the first to show that pneumothorax, subcutaneous emphysema, and intraarterial gas, all of which are classic criteria for decompression illness diagnosis, are not specific for decompression illness. Complete pneumatization of supraaortic trunks is the best postmortem CT criteria to detect a fatal decompression illness when CT is performed within 24 hours after death.

KEYWORDS:

decompression illness; embolism; fatal diving accident; gas; postmortem CT; virtopsy

PMID:
25148148
DOI:
10.2214/AJR.13.12063
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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