Undiagnosed Progressive Supranuclear Palsy in a Patient With Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome Due to Use of Neuroleptics: The Utility of Autopsy in Deaths Due to Known Drug Reactions

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Medical examiners must decide whether or not a complete autopsy is warranted in evaluation of deaths that have been referred to their office. This decision is influenced by many factors. In most cases, the choice to perform only an external examination occurs in deaths where the decedent had previously documented potentially lethal natural disease or well-documented trauma. We report a patient who apparently died of the sequelae of a well-known complication of pharmacotherapy (neuroleptic malignant syndrome following Haldol administration). The death was referred to the medical examiner's office, where, based upon the history, an external examination was performed. Subsequently, the family requested an autopsy by the treating hospital. The autopsy established the diagnosis of progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). The patient's presenting signs and symptoms were not typical of the disease; however, PSP most likely played a role in the neuroleptic malignant syndrome-like manifestations the patient exhibited following the Haldol administration. The results of the complete autopsy highlight its importance in identifying and enhancing our understanding of the underlying conditions in natural disease-based causes of death involving known therapeutic complications.

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