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Sudden Death as a Complication of Bacterial Endocarditis

Byramji, Angela MBBS*; Gilbert, John D. FRCPA; Byard, Roger W. MBBS, MD*†

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2011 - Volume 32 - Issue 2 - p 140-142
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31821984fb
Original Articles

Three cases are reported to demonstrate the range of possible lesions and wide variation in lethal mechanisms that may be found in cases of unexpected death subsequently shown to be due to bacterial endocarditis. Case 1: A 36-year-old man was found dead on his bedroom floor surrounded by drug paraphernalia. At autopsy, acute myocardial ischemia was present caused by coronary artery ostial occlusion complicating acute bacterial endocarditis of the aortic valve. Case 2: A 54-year-old man with chronic renal failure was found dead in bed at home. At autopsy, a left middle cerebral artery territory cerebral infarct was present due to septic embolization from bacterial endocarditis involving the aortic valve. Case 3: A 23-year-old man was found collapsed in a pool of blood. At autopsy, upper airway hemorrhage from an arteriobronchial fistula was present caused by septic pulmonary infarction from previous endocarditis of a congenital ventricular septal defect. This report demonstrates that bacterial endocarditis may still be a cause of sudden and unexpected death presenting to forensic mortuaries and that the underlying mechanisms may involve complex sequences of pathological changes that compromise vascular function.

From the *Discipline of Pathology, The University of Adelaide; and †Forensic Science SA, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Manuscript received May 7, 2008; accepted July 19, 2008.

Reprints: Roger W. Byard, MBBS, MD, Discipline of Pathology, Level 3 Medical School North Building, The University of Adelaide, Frome Rd, Adelaide 5005, Australia. E-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.