Differentiation at autopsy between in vivo gas embolism and putrefaction using gas composition analysis
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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.
KeywordsPutrefaction Gas embolism Decompression Gas composition Nitrogen
The authors would like to thank all colleagues from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain) who contributed to this work and to the hyperbaric medicine division of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norway) for its scientific contribution. We would also like to thank Dr. Jose Luis Martín Barrasa for his help during the animal experiments at the Unit of Research of the Negrín Hospital in Spain. This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation with two research projects, (AGL 2005-07947) and (CGL 2009/12663), as well as the Government of Canary Islands (DG Medio Natural). The Spanish Ministry of Education contributed with personal financial support (the University Professor Formation fellowship). The Central Norway Regional Health Authority and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology supported additionally the hyperbaric experiment. Finally, The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Marine Mammal Centre and Wick and Sloan Simmons provided funding for the latest stage of this work.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
The study was performed in accordance with all EU applicable laws, regulations, and standards, obtaining the corresponding approval from the different ethical committees.
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