Medicolegal autopsies in children: Experience of a department of Legal Medicine in Brazil


Purposes: The purpose of this study was to determine the pattern of mortality in children’s Federal District. Knowledge of the epidemiology of injuries is essential for planning, implementation and evaluation of preventive measures. Methods: We analyzed the forensic examination documents of all children under 12 years sent to the IML-DF, during 2010. The data analyzed included age, gender, cause of death (i.e.natural or external), mechanism of death (traffic accident, asphyxia, firearm injuries, poisoning, heat injuries) and the medical cause of death. Results: A large number of children (n = 123 total; n = 71 males, n = 52 females) were examined in the IML-DF, Brasília, Brazil. Mean age was 37.96 months, with a median of 12 months, and 21% of children were younger than 1 month. There were 62 cases (33 males and 29 female) classified as natural deaths. The average age for natural deaths was 18.72 months. Most cases of natural death occurred in the first year of life (n = 50), being prevalent in the first month of life (n = 24). Among the 62 cases analyzed, six were stillborns, 13 suffered intrauterine fetal distress (e.g. placental insufficiency, prematurity and meconium aspiration), 36 had lung problems (e.g. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), bronchopneumonia, pulmonary hemorrhage, interstitial pneumonitis and infant respiratory distress syndrome (IRDS)), five had neurologicalproblems (e.g. hydrocephalus, hydranencephaly,convulsive seizures and meningitis) and two had undetermined cause of death. There were also isolated cases of heart disease, leukemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, peritonitis causedby acute appendicitisand amniotic bandsyndrome. There were 61 cases of deaths from external causes, as a consequence of the following: blunt instrument, firearm, physical agent (i.e.heat), physicochemical agent (i.e.asphyxia) and chemical agent (i.e.poisoning). Conclusions: The profile of deaths from external causesin this developing country follows a trend similar to trends reported in the literature for other developing countries. The majority of deaths are accidental, with traffic accidents being the most frequent cause, followed by asphyxia (i.e.aspiration of gastric contents and drownings). Sporadic cases of poisoning, injuries from firearms, accidents and fires also occur.

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Eugenio dos Santos Modelli, M. , de Almeida Vasques, M. and Pratesi, R. (2013) Medicolegal autopsies in children: Experience of a department of Legal Medicine in Brazil. Forensic Medicine and Anatomy Research, 1, 40-46. doi: 10.4236/fmar.2013.13008.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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