Volume 29, Issue 2 (April 1984)
Hypothermia: Autopsy Findings and Vitreous Glucose
Anatomic lesions associated with hypothermia are variable and nonspecific. Only a few gross lesions and no microscopic pathology were noted in the acute deaths of this series. An interesting anatomic observation was the low weight of the lungs in 45% of the hypothermic deaths. Hypothermia is recognized as frequently producing hyperglycemia and 80% of a group of such patients clinically treated at the Hennepin County Medical Center had elevated blood sugar values. This correlates with an average vitreous glucose of 82.6 mg/dL in the hypothermic deaths. By contrast, the average vitreous glucose value found in each of two separate control groups was 37 mg/dL.
Establishing hypothermia as the cause of death requires a proper history of exposure and the absence of any other clear-cut lethal factor. Certain biochemical tests may provide supporting evidence. Among these is an elevated vitreous glucose in a nondiabetic individual.