Pancreatic changes in cases of death due to hypothermia

J. Preuß*, E. Lignitz, R. Dettmeyer, B. Madea

*Corresponding author for this work
29 Citations (Scopus)


Several morphological alterations of the pancreatic tissue have been described as common findings in hypothermia (e.g. bleedings, pancreatitis, vacuoles). The frequency of these findings varies a lot. It was the aim of this study to clarify the kind and frequency of pancreatic changes in cases of death due to hypothermia. The autopsy reports of 143 cases of fatal hypothermia were, retrospectively, evaluated with regard to describe macroscopic findings in the pancreas. Additionally, microscopic investigations of tissue samples of the pancreas were carried out in 62 cases. As a control group, pancreatic samples of 25 autopsy cases without hypothermia and without alcoholism were collected. Additionally, pancreatic samples of 25 further autopsy cases with an alcoholic disease in the case history were investigated. In only 5 out of 143 cases of the study group, macroscopic bleedings in the pancreas were described. One case of acute and one of chronic pancreatitis was found in the autopsy reports. In 11 (17.7%) out of 62 cases, microscopic investigations yielded bleedings in the pancreatic tissue and in 24 (38.7%) out of 62 cases, optically empty vacuoles in the adenoid cells were found. In 15 out of 62 cases (24.2%), autolysis was too pronounced to gain utilisable results. In the control group without alcoholism, 12 out of 25 cases (48%) were diagnosed without pathological findings, five cases showed bleedings, one case an acute pancreatitis, one case a chronic pancreatitis and in six cases, the pancreatic tissue was autolytic. Vacuoles in the adenoid cells were not found. In the additional collective with alcoholism in the case history, 13 cases presented signs of an acute or a chronic pancreatitis. In 3 out of these 13 cases, vacuoles in the adenoid cells were found, but no case with vacuoles and without signs of a chronic pancreatitis was observed. The high frequency of pancreatic bleedings in cases of fatal hypothermia as described in the literature cannot be confirmed by our investigations. Only the vacuoles in the adenoid cells of the pancreas seem to be an additional sign of death due to hypothermia or associated with hypothermia.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)194-198
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 02.03.2007


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