The aim of this study was to investigate changes in the number of Purkinje fibers in cardiac conduction tissue during fatal electrocution. A total of 16 Sprague Dawley rats were divided into 2 groups as follows: the electrocution group and the control group. Animals were deeply anesthetized with sodium pentobarbital and, in the electrocution group, all 8 rats underwent a fatal electrical shock (220 v, 50 Hz) followed by cervical dislocation. In the control group, all 8 rats underwent execution by cervical dislocation. Following death, hearts were rapidly excised and perfused with 1% paraformaldehyde before tissues of the left ventricular anterior wall (LVAW) were isolated. The microscopic structure of the Purkinje fibers were subsequently analyzed using conventional hematoxylin and eosin staining. A majority of the Purkinje fibers were located in groups among the cardiac muscle of the LVAW. A significant reduction in Purkinje fiber expression was displayed in the electrocution group compared with the control group (P < 0.05). The mean total number of Purkinje fibers for the electrocution and control groups were 59 ± 11 and 3287 ± 19 cells, respectively (P < 0.05). The estimated number of Purkinje fibers in the LVAW of the control group was significantly greater than observed in the electrocution group (41.09 ± 0.24 vs. 0.7375 ± 0.14, P < 0.05). The findings of the current study suggest that such a reduction would be reflected in abnormal cardiac conduction and a possible cause of sudden death.
From the Department of Forensic Pathology, Zhongshan School of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China.
Manuscript received October 14, 2009; accepted January 31, 2010.
Supported by Guangdong Medical College (XQ0426).
The authors report no conflicts of interest.
Correspondence: Shui-Ping Liu, MD, Department of Forensic Pathology, ZhongshanSchool of Medicine, Sun Yat-Sen University, Zhongshan 2ndroad 74, Guangzhou 510080, People’s Republic of China. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.