(Received 9 October 1987; accepted 18 April 1988)
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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.
Larry Sparks, D
Assistant professor of neurology and Sanders-Brown Research Center on Aging, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY
Assistant professor of pathology, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY
Associate professor of pathology, University of Kentucky Medical Center, Lexington, KY
Professor of statistics, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY
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