Relevance of postmortem radiology to the diagnosis of fatal cerebral gas embolism from compressed air diving

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Abstract

Aims:

To test the hypothesis that artefact caused by postmortem off-gassing is at least partly responsible for the presence of gas within the vascular system and tissues of the cadaver following death associated with compressed air diving.

Methods:

Controlled experiment sacrificing sheep after a period of simulated diving in a hyperbaric chamber and carrying out sequential postmortem computed tomography (CT) on the cadavers.

Results:

All the subject sheep developed significant quantities of gas in the vascular system within 24 hours, as demonstrated by CT and necropsy, while the control animals did not.

Conclusions:

The presence of gas in the vascular system of human cadavers following diving associated fatalities is to be expected, and is not necessarily connected with gas embolism following pulmonary barotrauma, as has previously been claimed.

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