Author(s): Hausdrfer C, Pedal I, Zimmer G, Remppis A, Strobel G, Hausdrfer C, Pedal I, Zimmer G, Remppis A, Strobel G
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Abstract The stress of agony (the death struggle) induces a rise in serum catecholamines. High doses of catecholamines cause myofibrillar degeneration (MFD), a form of cardiac injury. Severely damaged cardiac myocytes release troponin T (TnT), a myofibrillar cardiac protein, into the circulation. We studied serum catecholamine levels, MFD and TnT in 119 medico-legal autopsy cases. Catecholamine levels increased with the duration of agony: In the instantaneous death cases, the levels were similar to levels in humans at rest, whereas the levels in prolonged agony were comparable to concentrations found in humans in acute maximal stress. Still, it was not possible to infer the duration of agony from the catecholamine level in an individual case. The exceptionally high dopamine levels found in the group 'resuscitation and/or intensive care before death 'were most likely caused by antemortal treatment with dopamine. Slight MFD was diagnosed in nearly all hearts; its severity was neither related to catecholamine levels nor to duration of agony. TnT, not found in blood of healthy people, was present in nearly all postmortem samples, indicating autolytic effects. Heart blood contained more TnT than femoral blood. We could not detect a relationship between the serum cardiac troponin T level and MFD; but cardiac deaths had significantly higher levels of TnT in heart blood than deaths from other causes. The postulated interrelation between catecholamines, MFD and TnT was not evident from the results.
This article was published in Arch Kriminol
and referenced in Journal of Forensic Research