Intra-Abdominal Hemorrhage Complicating Electrothermal Arterial Injury During Pelvic Surgery: A Case Report

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Iatrogenic vascular injury is a potentially serious complication of surgical procedures. Here we report a case of delayed fatal intra-abdominal hemorrhage because of electrocautery injury of a right external iliac artery. The decedent, a 31-year-old woman, died suddenly on postoperative day 1 after a laparoscopic staging operation for an ovarian tumor. Her past medical history included a recent diagnosis of a microinvasive carcinoma in the background of a mucinous cystic neoplasm of the right ovary. Postmortem examination revealed a young woman with evidence of emergency intervention, recent laparoscopic pelvic surgery, and pale hypostasis limited to the back surfaces of the body. The internal examination confirmed the postmortem computed tomography findings of a large amount of blood in the pelvic and abdominal cavities and evidence of recent surgical intervention. The soft tissues around the aorta and major pelvic vessels showed electrocautery change and marked perivascular hemorrhage preferentially surrounding the right external iliac artery. Histological examination of the vascular bundle showed an electrocautery injury of the arterial wall: transmural necrosis, acute inflammation, and hemorrhage. In this report, we offer an approach to a postmortem examination in postoperative deaths with emphasis on deaths due to iatrogenic vascular injuries and discuss the rationale for determining the manner of death.

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