PMID: 12062943Jun 14, 2002Paper

Electrocution--autopsy study with emphasis on "electrical petechiae"

Forensic Science International : Synergy
B KargerBernd Brinkmann

Abstract

Fatalities caused by electrocution (n = 37) were re-examined on the basis of the autopsy records, the police reports and the technical expertise. Accidents including two lightning deaths caused 2/3rd and suicides 1/4th of the fatalities and there were two homicides. Carelessness or ignorance were a major reason for accidental deaths while technical defects could be verified in five cases only. Low-voltage ac and male victims predominated. Electrical burns or current marks were detected in 81% including all high voltage electrocutions. The seven victims lacking burns were electrocuted in a wet environment including six cases of suicide in the bathtub with a hair drier. Petechial haemorrhages were present in 74% of the cases and the favourite sites were the skin of the eyelids, conjunctivae, visceral pleura, and the epicard. The presence of petechiae did not depend on the voltage or the current pathway relative to the heart. It is, therefore, suggested that the petechiae are not caused by asphyxia but by a combination of venous congestion due to cardiac arrest and a sudden rise in blood pressure induced by muscle contractions. Consequently, "electrical petechiae" represent a non-specific but typical finding in electrocution irres...Continue Reading

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