Review article

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A forensic pathology approach to sudden death in children and young adults in Biscay and Seville (Spain)

Abordaje de la muerte súbita en niños y jóvenes desde la patología forense en Bizkaia y Sevilla (España)


Sudden death (SD) in children and young adults is a complex multifactorial problem that entails medical forensic and socio-familial implications. Forensic pathology plays an important role in these cases due to the fact that they tend to occur unexpectedly, and therefore a postmortem examination is needed to determine cause and mechanism of death. Most of these deaths are of cardiovascular origin and many of them have a hereditary component. The autopsy may be the only way to establish the correct diagnosis of the underlying condition enabling the family to receive proper medical counseling, to identify asymptomatic relatives at risk, and to prevent subsequent deaths. A proper approach requires the collaboration of various medical specialties (coroners, pathologists, pediatricians, cardiologists, microbiologists, geneticians), who must work in coordination in accordance to international protocols. In this article, the epidemiologic and clinical-pathological features of the main conditions that may lead to SD in children and young adults are reviewed and a case series from Seville and Biscay provinces is presented. Finally, the importance of forensic pathology in the management and prevention of these cases is underlined.