Aim Tandem mass spectrometry (MS/MS) is a recommended investigation for sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), but there are limited data regarding yield and potential influencing factors. This study investigates postmortem acylcarnitine profiles in a large cohort of infant deaths from a single centre, including those with metabolic disease.
Methods Acylcarnitine results obtained by MS/MS from routine blood/bile spot samples during the standard autopsy investigation were identified from infant deaths over a 14-year period. Results were categorised as normal or abnormal according to the clinical report by a specialist paediatric biochemist. Possible interdependent variables were assessed, multiple linear regression models were constructed and residual comparison was undertaken.
Results 397 blood and 268 bile MS/MS results were identified from infant cases, including 255 matched blood–bile pairs. There was significant association between blood acylcarnitine findings and postmortem interval (PMI), body mass index and liver weight. A probable cause of death was identified in 40% of sudden death cases, including 18 (2%) with a definite or highly likely cause of death as underlying metabolic disease; this represented 12 (12%) unexpected deaths in the first week of life and six (<1%) aged 7–365 days. Fatty acid oxidation disorders identified included very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency, medium chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency and carnitine transporter defects.
Conclusion Postmortem blood and bile acylcarnitine profiles are influenced by several variables, and PMI can influence MS/MS acylcarnitine results. Metabolic disease may present as SUDI and may be identified from postmortem samples.
- autopsy pathology
- infant death
- paediatric pathology
- tandem mass spectrometry
- trophoblastic disease
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