Histological Changes in the Thyroid Gland in Cases of Infant and Early Childhood Asphyxia—A Preliminary Study

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A retrospective blinded study of thyroid gland histology was undertaken in 50 infants and young children aged from 1 to 24 months. Deaths were due to (i) suffocation (N = 7), hanging (4), wedging (3), and chest and/or neck compression (4), and (ii) SIDS (20), noncervical trauma (7), organic disease, (4) and drug toxicity (1). In the asphyxia group (N = 18), thyroid gland congestion ranged from 0 to 3+ with 39% of cases (7/18) having moderate/marked congestion. In three cases, focal aggregates of red blood cells (blood islands) were observed within the intrafollicular colloid. These deaths involved chest compression, chest and/or neck compression, and crush asphyxia in a vehicle accident, and all had facial petechiae. Only 22% of the 32 control cases (7/32) had moderate/marked congestion with no blood islands being identified (p < 0.05). Blood islands within the thyroid gland may be caused by congestion associated with crushing or compression and may provide supportive evidence for this diagnosis.

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