Why are Wischnewski spots not always present in lethal hypothermia? The results of testing a stress-induced animal model

Fiona Bright, Calle Winskog, Melissa Walker, Roger W. Byard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Hypothermic fatalities in humans are characterized by a range of often subtle pathological findings that typically include superficial erosive gastritis (Wischnewski spots). Experimental studies have been successfully performed using animal models to replicate this finding, however study animals have inevitably been subjected to a variety of additional stressors including food deprivation, restraint and partial immersion in water while conscious. As it is recognised that stress on its own may cause superficial erosive gastritis, a model has been developed to enable the study of the effects of hypothermia in isolation. 42 Sprague–Dawley rats were allowed free social contact and were fed and watered ad libitum prior to being anaesthetized with isoflurane. Once unconscious, rats were placed on drape cloth covering metal mesh platforms in a styrofoam box packed with ice. The apparatus enabled both maintenance of a specific low temperature (26 °C) in 14 animals, and continued reduction of core temperatures in the remaining 28 (who all died of hypothermia under anaesthesia). Examination of the gastric mucosa in both groups macroscopically and microscopically failed to demonstrate typical Wischnewski spots in any of the 42 animals. Thus, in this model, death from hypothermia occurred without the development of these lesions. These results suggest that stress may be a significant effect modifier in the development of Wischnewski spots in lethal hypothermia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)785-787
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Forensic and Legal Medicine
Volume20
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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