Volume 40, Issue 3 (May 1995)
“The Santa Claus Syndrome” Entrapment in Chimneys
In recent years, there have been sporadic reports in the lay press of individuals stuck in chimneys primarily during burglary attempts. Most of these individuals suffered from suffocation or soot inhalation. Because of the similarities between this form of breaking and entering and Santa Claus' traditional entrance into homes on Christmas Eve, we define the “Santa Claus Syndrome” as postural (positional) asphyxia, inhalational injuries and body burns, and/or complications related to compartment syndrome due to entrapment in chimneys. We report a case of a man who became trapped in a chimney during a burglary attempt and died a delayed death due to postural asphyxia associated with inhalational and burn injuries and anterior compartment syndrome. An analysis of this unusual case is presented. Exhaustional and postural asphyxia, compartment syndromes, and confined space-hypoxia syndrome are also discussed.