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Examination of Histological Samples From Submerged Carrion to Aid in the Determination of Postmortem Submersion Interval

Humphreys, Michael Keith MS*; Panacek, Edward MD; Green, William MD; Albers, Elizabeth MD§

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 1 - p 75–79
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31827f1a70
Original Articles

The use of histology in the as a tool for estimating postmortem intervals has rarely been explored but it has the potential for offering medical examiners an additional means for estimating the postmortem submersion interval (PMSI) during a death investigation. This study used perinatal piglets as human analogs which were submerged in freshwater for various time intervals. Each piglet was extracted from the water and underwent a necropsy examination during which histological samples were collected. The samples revealed that the necrotic tissue decomposed relatively predictably over time and that this decompositional progression may have the potential to be used via a scoring system to determine or aid in determining the PMSI. This method for calculating PMSI allows for normalization between piglets of various mass and body types. It also prevents any contamination of the remains via algae growth and animal activity that may exacerbate and possibly exaggerate PMSI calculation.

From the *Forensic Master’s Program and †Department of Emergency Medicine, University of California, Davis; ‡Sexual Assault Research Group, University of California, Berkeley; and §California Department of Health Care Services, Sacramento, CA.

Manuscript received June 30, 2011; accepted September 22, 2011.

Presented at the 2011 American Academy of Forensic Sciences Meeting, Chicago, IL.

Funding was all supplied by the corresponding author.

Disclaimer: No piglets or other animals were harmed during this project. All perinatal piglets were acquired postmortem and frozen.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Michael Keith Humphreys, MS, Forensic Master’s Program, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.