Forensic science international

Biochemical markers of fatal hypothermia.

PMID 23313602


The aim of this study was to investigate the usefulness of postmortem biochemical investigations in the diagnosis of fatal hypothermia. 10 cases of fatal hypothermia and 30 control cases were selected. A series of biochemical parameters, such as glucose, acetone, 3-beta-hydroxybutyrate, isopropyl alcohol, free fatty acids, adrenaline, growth hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone, thyroid-stimulating hormone, cortisol, calcium, magnesium, C-reactive protein, procalcitonin as well as markers of renal and cardiac functions were measured in blood, postmortem serum from femoral blood, urine, vitreous and pericardial fluid. The results suggested that deaths due to hypothermia, especially in free-ethanol cases, are characterized by increased ketone levels in blood and other biological fluids, increased adrenaline concentrations in urine, increased cortisol levels in postmortem serum from femoral blood and increased free cortisol values in urine. Increased or decreased levels of other biological parameters are either the result of terminal metabolic changes or the expression of preexisting diseases and may provide information to elucidate the death process on a case-by-case basis.