Sudden infant death: lingual thyroglossal duct cyst versus environmental factors

Forensic Sci Int. 2006 Jan 27;156(2-3):158-60. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2004.12.032.


An 8-month-old female baby was found collapsed in the prone position 30 min after being positioned under soft-bedding. She was taken to the emergency room with cardiopulmonary arrest. Her heartbeat was recovered after resuscitation and continued for 20 h under artificial respiration, at which point the child died. At autopsy, the child showed no significant pathological abnormalities apart from a thyroglossal duct cyst of 2.0 cm diameter, therefore, it seemed that the cyst, which was close to the epiglottis, had caused asphyxia through airways occlusion. However, the child had shown no respiratory problems before death, and the risk of airway occlusion as a result of lingual cysts is more likely in a supine rather than a prone position. A small amount of evidence suggested that the child died as a result of suffocation from being covered by soft-bedding, which could have caused fatal asphyxia; it is also possible that a hypoxic state induced by airway obstruction might have been enhanced by being covered with bedding. It seemed reasonable to assume that death was caused by a combination of the lingual thyroglossal duct cysts and asphyxia caused by being covered in bedding, though the main factor appeared to be the large cyst.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Airway Obstruction / etiology
  • Asphyxia / etiology*
  • Beds / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Prone Position
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / pathology
  • Thyroglossal Cyst / pathology*