Aim: To establish the most frequent pathological findings encountered at postmortem examination during the investigation of a fatality with a history of cocaine abuse.
Methods: Autopsied deaths investigated by the coroner for the Eastern district of London, between 2004 and 2007, in which the decedent had positive toxicology for cocaine were identified (n = 28). The autopsy records and histology of tissue taken at autopsy were retrieved and reviewed. Pathological findings (gross and microscopic, including cardiac, pulmonary, gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, renal and neurological) were collated.
Results: The main pathological findings at autopsy occurring in this cohort (comprising predominantly men, mean age 31 years), were cardiovascular: left ventricular hypertrophy (46%), multifocal myocardial fibrosis (21%), coronary artery disease (29%), cerebrovascular disease (36%) and pulmonary oedema (71%). Hepatic steatosis (29%) and gastrointestinal haemorrhage (18%), due mostly to gastric erosions/ulceration, were also frequent findings.
Conclusions: During a coroner’s autopsy of a cocaine user, a thorough cardiac examination combined with cardiac tissue sampling for histology, are valuable investigations, which are most likely to help show pathology relevant to the cause of death.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
Competing interests: None.