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A Fatal Fall Associated With Undiagnosed Parenchymatous Neurosyphilis

Sakai, Kentaro MD, PhD*; Fukuda, Takahiro MD, PhD; Iwadate, Kimiharu MD, PhD*; Maruyama-Maebashi, Kyoko PhD*; Asakura, Kumiko MD*; Ozawa, Masayoshi MD*; Matsumoto, Sari MD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2014 - Volume 35 - Issue 1 - p 4–7
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000068
Case Reports

A fall from a great height is often associated with altered mental status. Aside from the usual contributing factors, for example, alcohol consumption or mental illness, natural disease leading to a fatal fall is seldom identified by autopsy. The case described in this report is that of a 57-year-old man who had been clinically diagnosed with presenile Alzheimer disease and fell head first into a river from the bridge. These events were captured by a surveillance camera on the bridge; an acquaintance reported that he had previous suicidal ideation. At autopsy, the cervical spinal cord was determined to have been severely injured, and the sixth cervical vertebra was observed to have been fractured. Histological examination showed chronic meningoencephalitis including neuronal loss, perivascular cuffing, and the proliferation of microglia and astrocytes in the cerebral cortex. Serologic evaluation consisting of the nontreponemal antigen test (rapid plasma reagin [RPR]) and treponemal antibody test (Treponema pallidum latex agglutination) was positive in both cases (RPR: 18.2 RPR units, T. pallidum latex agglutination: 7718 U/mL). These findings suggested that the patient had been affected by a syphilis infection and that his suicidal behavior was associated with parenchymatous neurosyphilis.

From the *Department of Forensic Medicine and †Division of Neuropathology, Department of Neuroscience, Research Center for Medical Sciences, The Jikei University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.

Manuscript received February 18, 2013; accepted June 4, 2013.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Kentaro Sakai, MD, PhD, Department of Forensic Medicine, The Jikei University School of Medicine, 3-25-8 Nishi-Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-8461, Japan. E-mail:

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.