San Antonio, TX, United States
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Kemal C.J.,Johns Hopkins University | Patterson T.,Trinity University | Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2013

In the United States, there is a paucity of studies examining sharp force injuries (SFIs), defined as an injury inflicted by cutting or stabbing with a sharp instrument. Few studies exist that discriminate between the injury patterns of suicidal or homicidal deaths incurred by SFI. In this retrospective study, all deaths secondary to SFI were evaluated at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office from January 1988 through May 2010. Exclusion criteria were deaths occurring more than 24 hours after injury and wounds obscured by healing or extensive medical intervention. The following data were analyzed: age of decedent, sex, wound location, number of wounds, type of SFI (stab vs incised), visceral organ or vascular injury, concomitant injuries, and manner of death. Defensive injuries in homicides and hesitation marks in suicides were also recorded. A total of 418 deaths met inclusion criteria: 349 homicides, 54 suicides, 12 accidents, and 2 where the manner of death could not be determined.The average age of homicide victims was 35 years, whereas that of suicide victims was 47 years. Gender was not significantly different between the homicide and suicide groups. Homicide victims incurred a greater number of wounds per case compared with suicides, 5.3 versus 4.1, respectively, and had a greater number of stab wounds, 3.3 per case compared with 0.7 per case, respectively. Incisional wounds were statistically greater in suicides, with an average number of 3.3 per case compared with 2.1 in homicides.Injuries to the head, chest, and back were more common in homicides when compared with suicides, whereas injuries to the abdomen and extremities were more frequent in suicides. Comparison of major visceral and vascular damage between homicides and suicides revealed statistically greater injury to the heart, lungs, and thoracic vessels in homicides, but there was a greater frequency of injury to the vasculature of the extremities in suicides. The presence of additional (non-SFI) injuries was more common in homicides than in suicides. Hesitation marks/tentative wounds occurred in 35% of suicides, whereas defensive injuries occurred in 31% of homicides. This epidemiological study can assist the forensic pathologist in determining the most probable manner of death from SFI but does not substitute for a thorough examination of the circumstances of death and a meticulous autopsy. Copyright © 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Neerman M.F.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Frost R.E.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Deking J.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
Journal of Forensic Sciences | Year: 2013

A 17-year-old white man who showed no obvious signs of trauma was found unresponsive in bed and was pronounced dead at the scene. The decedent had a documented history of heroin abuse and chronic back pain and reportedly self-medicated with Kratom (mitragynine). The autopsy was remarkable only for pulmonary congestion and edema and a distended bladder, both of which are consistent with, though not diagnostic of, opiate use. A laboratory work-up revealed therapeutic levels of over-the-counter cold medications and benzodiazepines. However, of interest was a level of mitragynine at 0.60 mg/L. Given the facts of the case, the Medical Examiner certified the cause of death as "possible Kratom toxicity" and the manner of death was classified as "accident. © 2012 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.


Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Dimaio V.J.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2012

Organomegaly can be a sign of disease and pathologic abnormality, although standard tables defining organomegaly have yet to be established and universally accepted. This study was designed to address the issue and to determine a normal weight for the major organs in adult human males. A prospective study of healthy men aged 18 to 35 years who died of sudden, traumatic deaths was undertaken. Cases were excluded if there was a history of medical illness including illicit drug use, if prolonged medical treatment was performed, if there was a prolonged period between the time of injury and death, if body length and weight could not be accurately assessed, or if any illness or intoxication was identified after gross and microscopic analysis including evidence of systemic disease. Individual organs were excluded if there was significant injury to the organ, which could have affected the weight. A total of 232 cases met criteria for inclusion in the study during the approximately 6-year period of data collection from 2005 to 2011. The decedents had a mean age of 23.9 years and ranged in length from 146 to 193 cm, with a mean length of 173 cm. The weight ranged from 48.5 to 153 kg, with a mean weight of 76.4 kg. Most decedents (87%) died of either ballistic or blunt force (including craniocerebral) injuries. The mean weight of the brain was 1407 g (range, 1070-1767 g), that of the liver was 1561 g (range, 838-2584 g), that of the spleen was 139 g (range, 43-344 g), that of the right lung was 445 g (range, 185-967 g), that of the left lung was 395 g (range, 186-885 g), that of the right kidney was 129 g (range, 79-223 g), and that of the left kidney was 137 g (range, 74-235 g). Regression analysis was performed and showed that there were insufficient associations between organ weight and body length, body weight, and body mass index to allow for predictability. The authors, therefore, propose establishing a reference range for organ weights in men, much like those in use for other laboratory tests including hemoglobin, hematocrit, or glucose. The following reference ranges (95% inclusion) are proposed: brain, 1179-1621 g; liver, 968-1860 g; spleen, 28-226 g; right lung, 155-720 g; left lung, 112-675 g; right kidney, 81-160 g; and left kidney, 83-176 g. Copyright © 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Dimaio V.J.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2012

It has been shown that cardiac enlargement, whether hypertrophic or dilated, is an independent risk factor for sudden cardiac death, although the definition of what constitutes cardiac enlargement is not universally established. This study was designed to address this issue and to determine normal cardiac weights in adult men. A prospective study was undertaken of healthy men dying from sudden traumatic deaths aged 18 to 35 years. Cases were excluded if there was a history of medical illness including illicit drug use; prolonged medical treatment was performed; there was a prolonged period between the time of injury and death; body length and weight could not be accurately assessed; there was significant cardiac injury; or any illness or intoxication was identified after gross and microscopic analysis, including evidence of systemic disease. A total of 232 cases met the criteria for inclusion in the study during the approximately 6-year period of data collection from 2005 to 2011. The decedents had an average age of 23.9 years and ranged in length from 146 to 193 cm with an average length of 173 cm. Their weights ranged from 48.5 to 153 kg with an average weight of 76.4 kg. Most decedents (87%) died of either ballistic or blunt force (including craniocerebral) injuries. Overall, their heart weights ranged from 188 to 575 g with an average of 331 g and an SD of 56.7 g. Regression analysis was performed to assess the relationship between heart weight and body weight, body length, and body mass index and found insufficient associations to enable predictability. The authors, therefore, propose establishing a reference range for heart weight in men, much like those in use for other laboratory tests including hemoglobin, hematocrit, or glucose. A reference range (95% inclusion) of 233 to 383 g for the adult male human heart is proposed. Copyright © 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Hargrove V.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2014

Skeletal muscle constitutes a large percentage of the total body volume, making it a potentially widely available specimen for drug quantitation when blood is not available for toxicological testing. Morphine is a commonly encountered opiate in postmortem toxicology known to have stable blood concentrations in peripheral vessels. Morphine concentrations were measured in both femoral blood and skeletal muscle to assess the stability and predictability of skeletal muscle concentrations as compared with femoral concentrations. Analysis showed skeletal muscle was a sensitive matrix for the detection of morphine; however, there is significant disparity between the skeletal muscle and blood concentrations with a lack of predictability. The authors conclude that thigh skeletal muscle may be used for qualitative identification of morphine; however, interpretation of quantitative results should not be made as there does not seem to be a clear correlation between femoral blood and skeletal muscle concentrations for morphine. Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Hargrove V.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2014

It is known that postmortem drug concentrations can vary depending on the sampling site and that, in general, central sites have higher drug concentrations than do peripheral sites. It has also been suggested that clamping the femoral vessel before drawing the sample may eliminate possible contribution from central sites. Morphine is a commonly prescribed and commonly encountered opiate medication that is often found in postmortem examinations, both as a cause of death and also as an incidental finding. It is important to understand the degree of postmortem redistribution of morphine to peripheral sites and whether clamping the femoral vessel can eliminate postmortem redistribution of morphine to ensure the correct interpretation of postmortem morphine concentrations. Morphine drug concentrations were evaluated in clamped and unclamped femoral vein blood samples at 3 different times before autopsy, and no significant change in either the clamped or the unclamped femoral vein morphine concentration was seen over time. Furthermore, no significant difference was found between the clamped and unclamped blood concentrations at any period. Therefore, it can be concluded that for morphine, unclamped femoral blood samples do not show significant redistribution from central sites within the first 24 hours after death in bodies kept refrigerated at 4°C. © 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Hargrove V.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2011

Hydrocodone is a semisynthetic opioid medication that is widely used as an analgesic and antitussive. Since 2004 it has been the most commonly prescribed drug in the United States and is often misused as a drug of abuse. Hydrocodone is frequently encountered in the postmortem setting, both as a cause of death and incidentally. Unfortunately, information regarding the concentrations of hydrocodone found with chronic high-dose use is lacking, and interpretation of postmortem concentrations can be difficult. A retrospective review of postmortem and "Driving under the Influence" (DUI) cases in Bexar County Texas in which hydrocodone was present was conducted. The cases were included in the study if they fit the criteria of belonging to 1 of 3 categories: the hydrocodone either caused or was the main contributor to death; the hydrocodone was incidental and definitively did not cause or contribute to death; and the DUI cases. The average hydrocodone concentration in the cases where the hydrocodone caused death was 0.47 mg/L (median, 0.38 mg/L). The average hydrocodone concentration in cases where it was incidental to death was 0.15 mg/L (median, 0.08 mg/L). The average hydrocodone concentration in the DUI cases was 0.09 mg/L (median, 0.08 mg/L). Analysis showed the possibility of postmortem redistribution as well as significant overlap of the concentrations noted in the different groups. Given that no definitive lethal concentration could be delineated, it is recommended that each hydrocodone case encountered be assessed individually to include a thorough medical record review to accurately interpret hydrocodone concentrations. It has also been shown that concentrations as high as 0.3 mg/L peripherally and 1.4 mg/L centrally can be present and not result in death. In addition, further research into hydrocodone concentrations with chronic use and hydrocodone metabolism is necessary. Copyright © 2011 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Hargrove V.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2011

Although cocaine is a widely abused illicit substance that is known to cause death, deaths due to its use appear to occur in a minority of those who use it. This report was designed to review drug-related deaths due to cocaine, and the concomitant use of other drugs/ medications. A retrospective review of drug deaths at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office in San Antonio, Texas, was undertaken for cases where cocaine was one of the drugs implicated in causing death. Analysis was performed comparing the concentrations of cocaine and benzoylecgonine present and the absence or presence of other drugs. The data obtained showed that cocaine was toxic over a large range with deaths occurring at concentrations ranging from 0.01 to 78 mg/L. Analyses also indicated an increased lethality when cocaine is used in combination with ethanol, heroin, opiates, and antidepressant/antipsychotic medications, which is consistent with previous reports and research. Antihistamine data showed that there may be relationship between increased toxicity and coingestion, although more research is necessary. Copyright © 2011 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Molina D.K.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office | Hargrove V.M.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology | Year: 2013

The phenomenon of postmortem redistribution has long been described, but the processes driving it have not, as yet, been fully elucidated. Peripheral blood samples are currently used, when available, in an effort to minimize the effects of postmortem redistribution on drug concentrations, but what sources of blood are peripheral sources? A study was undertaken to determine if postmortem subclavian (SC) blood should be considered a peripheral or central blood sample. Twenty-eight cases were identified in which drugs were quantified in at least 2 of the following blood sources: femoral (F), SC, and heart (H); the concentrations found in each source were compared. Twenty different drugs were analyzed including 6 antidepressants, 6 opioid medications and metabolites, 3 benzodiazepines, 2 antihistamines, 2 sedative hypnotics, and 1 muscle relaxant. Analysis found that SC blood concentrations reflect neither F nor H blood concentrations, with the exception of the benzodiazepines where SC blood concentrations closely mirrored H blood concentrations. Overall, SC blood drug concentrations tended to be 1.3 times greater than F blood and 0.77 times less than H blood. Therefore, it is recommended that the exact source of the blood, rather than simply peripheral or central, be notated on toxicology results to ensure appropriate interpretation. Copyright © 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Kimberley Molina D.,Bexar County Medical Examiners Office
Journal of Forensic Sciences | Year: 2010

Isopropanol is an important chemical to forensic pathologists in that intoxication can result in death yet presence does not necessarily indicate intoxication. Several reports have been published, which indicate that isopropanol can be created endogenously in certain situations including diabetes mellitus, starvation, dehydration, and chronic ethanol use; however, a large-scale analysis addressing all of the possible causes of postmortem isopropanol detection has not been performed. A retrospective review of all cases examined at the Bexar County Medical Examiner's Office between 1993 and 2008 in which isopropanol was detected in routine alcohol screening was undertaken. The cases were categorized by the source of the isopropanol, and the concentrations of isopropanol and acetone were analyzed. Analysis revealed isopropanol concentrations to be low (<100 mg/dL) in cases of antemortem and postmortem creation and in postmortem contamination and high (>100 mg/dL) in cases of antemortem exposure. These results are consistent with other published reports. © 2010 American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

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