Fatal exertional heat stroke: a case series

Am J Med Sci. 2004 Aug;328(2):84-7. doi: 10.1097/00000441-200408000-00003.


Background: Exertional heat stroke (EHS) is one of the most serious conditions that occur when excess heat, generated by muscular exercise, exceeds the body's heat-dissipation rate. The consequent elevated body core temperature causes damage to the body's tissues, resulting in a characteristic multiorgan syndrome, which is occasionally fatal.

Methods: We analyzed the fatal EHS cases that occurred in the Israeli Defence Forces during the last decade according to Minard's paradigm for evaluation of EHS predisposing factors, aiming to characterize the common features and unique circumstances leading to fatality.

Results: Accumulation of predisposing factors, particularly those concerning training regulations, coupled with inappropriate treatment at site, were found to be strong predictors of a grave prognosis. Analysis of the pathologic findings of the fatal EHS cases on autopsy revealed a possible association between the duration and length of exercise prior to EHS occurrence and the extent of pathologic findings.

Conclusions: Strict adherence to existing training regulations may prevent further heat stroke fatalities.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Body Temperature
  • Exercise
  • Heat Exhaustion
  • Heat Stroke / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Temperature