Sudden Death Due to Acute Pancreatitis

Acad Forensic Pathol. 2018 Jun;8(2):239-255. doi: 10.1177/1925362118782051. Epub 2018 Jun 6.


Acute pancreatitis can present as sudden, expected death and, therefore, fall under the jurisdiction of the medical examiner/coroner (ME/C). Although its etiologies are varied, alcohol abuse, trauma, and drugs are important to consider in the forensic setting. It is therefore important for the forensic pathologist to have an understanding of these and other etiologies, to have a functional knowledge of the pancreatic anatomy and physiology, and to be able to diagnose acute pancreatitis and distinguish it from postmortem artifact. This review will highlight the forensic aspects of acute pancreatitis, with particular focus on acute hemorrhagic pancreatitis. This will include an overview of the developmental anatomy and normal physiology of the pancreas, the various causes of pancreatitis that may result in deaths coming to the attention of the ME/C, the underlying pathophysiology of the disease, the postmortem diagnosis of acute pancreatitis, and ancillary studies that support the diagnosis. Acad Forensic Pathol. 2018 8(2): 239-255.

Keywords: Alcohol; Forensic pathology; Hemorrhagic pancreatitis; Pancreatitis; Trauma.

Publication types

  • Review