Original Article

International Journal of Legal Medicine

, Volume 127, Issue 2, pp 437-445

First online:

Differentiation at autopsy between in vivo gas embolism and putrefaction using gas composition analysis

  • Yara Bernaldo de QuirósAffiliated withVeterinary Histology and Pathology, Department of Morphology, Institute of Animal Health, Veterinary School, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC)Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • , Oscar González-DíazAffiliated withPhysical and Chemical Instrumental Center for the Development of Applied Research Technology and Scientific estate (CIDIA), Edificio Polivalente 1, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC)
  • , Andreas MøllerløkkenAffiliated withDepartment of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Alf O. BrubakkAffiliated withDepartment of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Astrid HjeldeAffiliated withDepartment of Circulation and Medical Imaging, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Pedro SaavedraAffiliated withDepartment of Mathematics, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC)
  • , Antonio FernándezAffiliated withVeterinary Histology and Pathology, Department of Morphology, Institute of Animal Health, Veterinary School, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) Email author 

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Abstract

Gas embolism can arise from different causes (iatrogenic accidents, criminal interventions, or diving related accidents). Gas analyses have been shown to be a valid technique to differentiate between putrefaction gases and gas embolism. In this study, we performed systematic necropsies at different postmortem times in three experimental New Zealand White Rabbits models: control or putrefaction, infused air embolism, and compression/decompression. The purpose of this study was to look for qualitative and quantitative differences among groups and to observe how putrefaction gases mask in vivo gas embolism. We found that the infused air embolism and compression/decompression models had a similar gas composition prior to 27-h postmortem, being typically composed of around 70–80 % of N2 and 20–30 % of CO2, although unexpected higher CO2 concentrations were found in some decompressed animals, putting in question the role of CO2 in decompression. All these samples were statistically and significantly different from more decomposed samples. Gas composition of samples from more decomposed animals and from the putrefaction model presented hydrogen, which was therefore considered as a putrefaction marker.

Keywords

Putrefaction Gas embolism Decompression Gas composition Nitrogen