Post-mortem whole body computed tomography of opioid (heroin and methadone) fatalities: frequent findings and comparison to autopsy

Winklhofer, Sebastian; Surer, Eddie; Ampanozi, Garyfalia; Ruder, Thomas; Stolzmann, Paul; Elliott, Marina; Oestreich, Andrea; Kraemer, Thomas; Thali, Michael; Alkadhi, Hatem; Schweitzer, Wolf (2014). Post-mortem whole body computed tomography of opioid (heroin and methadone) fatalities: frequent findings and comparison to autopsy. European radiology, 24(6), pp. 1276-1282. Springer 10.1007/s00330-014-3128-7

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OBJECTIVE To investigate frequent findings in cases of fatal opioid intoxication in whole-body post-mortem computed tomography (PMCT). METHODS PMCT of 55 cases in which heroin and/or methadone had been found responsible for death were retrospectively evaluated (study group), and were compared with PMCT images of an age- and sex-matched control group. Imaging results were compared with conventional autopsy. RESULTS The most common findings in the study group were: pulmonary oedema (95 %), aspiration (66 %), distended urinary bladder (42 %), cerebral oedema (49 %), pulmonary emphysema (38 %) and fatty liver disease (36 %). These PMCT findings occurred significantly more often in the study group than in the control group (p < 0.05). The combination of lung oedema, brain oedema and distended urinary bladder was seen in 26 % of the cases in the study group but never in the control group (0 %). This triad, as indicator of opioid-related deaths, had a specificity of 100 %, as confirmed by autopsy and toxicological analysis. CONCLUSIONS Frequent findings in cases of fatal opioid intoxication were demonstrated. The triad of brain oedema, lung oedema and a distended urinary bladder on PMCT was highly specific for drug-associated cases of death. KEY POINTS Frequent findings in cases of fatal opioid intoxication were investigated. Lung oedema, brain oedema and full urinary bladder represent a highly specific constellation. This combination of findings in post-mortem CT should raise suspicion of intoxication.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Radiology, Neuroradiology and Nuclear Medicine (DRNN) > Institute of Diagnostic, Interventional and Paediatric Radiology

UniBE Contributor:

Ruder, Thomas

Subjects:

600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health

ISSN:

0938-7994

Publisher:

Springer

Language:

English

Submitter:

Aisha Stefania Mzinga

Date Deposited:

07 Apr 2015 11:05

Last Modified:

05 Nov 2015 11:19

Publisher DOI:

10.1007/s00330-014-3128-7

PubMed ID:

24599624

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.66127

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/66127

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