Sudden Unexpected Death Related to Medullary Brain Lesions

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The sudden unexpected death of a person believed healthy has occasionally been followed by a detailed postmortem examination that revealed no cause of death except for the unexpected presence of a medullary brain lesion. Our review of all available cases of sudden unexpected death related to medullary brain lesions (SUD-MBL) revealed the absence of any specific constellation of ante-mortem disease characteristics, together with the finding that major motor and sensory pathways were grossly preserved in most cases. The wide variety in ages of the victims, and in specific types of tissue pathology affecting the medulla, makes this illness extremely difficult to anticipate when the medullary lesions are not otherwise known to exist during life. SUD-MBL may be a specific clinico-neuropathologic disease entity, having significant importance for forensic investigators trying to establish the cause of sudden unexpected death in a victim of any age. Because victims often harbor their medullary lesions for days or weeks before SUD-MBL, clinical physicians as well need to consider the possibility of medullary brain involvement by any disease process, neurologic or systemic, while managing their patients.

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