Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 1989)
Comparison of Chemical Methods for Determining Postmortem Interval
Accurate determination of postmortem interval (PMI) is a problem for the forensic thanatologist, especially in unwitnessed deaths. A number of objective chemical methods for determining PMI have been developed, the most widely used being accumulation of potassium in the vitreous humor. The authors previously have reported a chemical method for determining PMI from the predictable accumulation or clearance of the dopaminergic metabolite 3-methoxytyramine (3-MT) in the putamen of the brain.
They have extended their previous study to compare directly the accuracy of determining PMI from the level of 3-MT in putamen with the level of potassium in vitreous humor. The data indicate that 3-MT is at least as accurate as, if not more accurate than, potassium accumulation in vitreous humor, although 3-MT levels can be affected by the cause of death and drugs present at the time of death. Nevertheless, determination of both the 3-MT and potassium levels can afford the most accurate method of determining PMI; preliminary nomograms for determining PMI from both variables are presented.