Fatal outcome in a case of pontocerebellar hypoplasia type 2

Forensic Sci Int. 2000 Sep 11;113(1-3):165-72. doi: 10.1016/s0379-0738(00)00270-x.


Pontocerebellar hypoplasia (PCH) is a very rare congenital (autosomal recessive) condition with fetal onset. Only a few cases have been published on the basis of both clinical data (symptoms/neuroradiological imaging) and autopsy results. This paper reports on such a case involving a 1.5-year-old male infant. The child suffered from severe psychomotor delay, extrapyramidal dyskinesia and epileptic seizures, but did not exhibit signs of spinal muscular atrophy as related to PCH type 1. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at the age of 6 months demonstrated olivo-pontine and bilateral cerebellar hypoplasia. The boy was unexpectedly found dead. Autopsy disclosed a severe aspiration of gastric contents as the final cause of death. The neuropathological examination confirmed PCH type 2 (according to Barth [Brain Dev., 15 (1993) 411-422]) with marked microcephaly and olivopontocerebellar hypoplasia. Histologically, decreased density of olivo-pontine neurons, reduction of granular and Purkinje's cell layers of the cerebellum, slight astroglial proliferation and fragmented appearance of the dentate nuclei were observed. The immunohistochemical expression pattern was determined using antibodies against glial fibrillary acidic protein, synaptophysin and neurofilament protein. Summarizing, typical features of PCH type 2 were present and proved by clinical course, MRI and autopsy. Despite severe symptoms due to a natural disease this rare neurogenetic entity can become of forensic interest, when sudden unexpected death occurs.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Death, Sudden / etiology*
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology
  • Dyskinesias
  • Epilepsy / etiology
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Olivopontocerebellar Atrophies / classification
  • Olivopontocerebellar Atrophies / congenital*
  • Olivopontocerebellar Atrophies / diagnosis*
  • Olivopontocerebellar Atrophies / genetics