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Adv Exp Med Biol. 2015;837:49-56. doi: 10.1007/5584_2014_84.

Hypoxia-related brain dysfunction in forensic medicine.

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Department of Forensic Medicine, Wroclaw Medical University, 4 Mikulicz-Radecki St., 50-345, Wroclaw, Poland,


Blood gases levels imbalances belong to important factors triggering central nervous system (CNS) functional disturbances. Hypoxia can be illness-related, like in many COPD patients, or it may be caused by broad range of external or iatrogenic factors - including influence of drugs depressing respiration, failure to keep the patient's prosthesis-supported airways patent, or a mistake in the operation of medical equipment supporting patient's respiration. Hypoxia, especially when it is not accompanied by rapid carbon dioxide retention, can go unnoticed for prolonged times, deepening existing CNS disorders, sometimes rapidly triggering their manifestation, or evoking quite new conditions and symptoms - like anxiety, agitation, aggressive behavior, euphoria, or hallucinations. Those, in turn, often result in situations raising interest in law enforcement institutions which need forensic medicine specialist's assistance and opinion. The possibility of illness or drug-related hypoxia, especially in terminal patients, is used to raise questions about the patients' ability to properly express their will in the way demanded by law - it also must be considered as a factor limiting the patients' responsibility in case they commit crimes. The possibility of hallucinations in hypoxia patients limits their credibility as witnesses or even their ability to report crime or sexual abuse they have been subjected to.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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