17_Drowning - Bloodhounds Incorporated

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FORENSIC
PATHOLOGY
DEATH BY DROWNING
DEATH BY DROWNING
Caused by
submersion in a liquid
Death due to asphyxia
with water occluding
the airways
DEATH BY DROWNING
Dry Drowning
Only a hypothesis
 Laryngeal spasm
 Lungs have no edema
 May form a plug of mucous and froth

DROWNING
Physiology of Drowning

Hold breath


Involuntary inhalation


Build up of Carbon Dioxide
 PCO2 = 55 mmHg
Water in lungs and/or stomach
Cerebral Hypoxia

3 – 60 min.
 Depends on water temperature
 Warm water 3-10 min
 Cold Water up to 66 min
DROWNING
Physiology
Water washes out surfactant
 Alveolar collapse
 Ventilation/perfusion mismatch

Post-mortem tissue consumption caused by
small marine animals such as fish and crabs
on the dorsal hand. The edges of the defect
are typically scalloped.
Large marine life such as sharks and alligators may
consume large amounts of tissue and leave sharp
injuries in the soft tissue and/or bone. In this case it may
be difficult to determine whether the injuries represent
ante-mortem trauma or post-mortem artifacts.
DROWNING
Water Temperature

Cold Water
“Goose Pimples”
 Body’s metabolism slows
 No need for oxygen to produce ATP

DROWNING
Autopsy Findings

Circumstances of Death



Washerwoman hands


May be Suicide, Homicide, Accidental
Autopsy Inconclusive
20 – 30 min.
White or hemorrhagic edema fluids

Pulmonary edema is non-specific
DROWNING
Tests for Drowning

Gettler Chloride Test
Levels less on right side of heart = drowned by
saltwater
 Levels less on left side of heart = drowned by
freshwater
 TEST DOES NOT WORK!!!

DROWNING
Diatom tests
Microscopic unicellular algae
 5 to 500 μm in size
 Silica skeleton
 Inconclusive test




May be inhaled
May be ingested
May be aspirated in water
DROWNING
Bathtubs
Extremely uncommon
 May happen due to seizure in tub
 Rarely homicide in adult, may occur in
children

DROWNING
Scuba Divers

Rapid ascent
Bends
 Nitrogen Narcosis


Equipment failure
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