Post mortem tryptase: A review of literature on its use, sampling and interpretation in the investigation of fatal anaphylaxis

Forensic Sci Int. 2020 Sep:314:110415. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2020.110415. Epub 2020 Jul 18.


Post mortem tryptase is a commonly-used ancillary test in the investigation of possible anaphylactic deaths. Ante mortem tryptase interpretation differs from post mortem interpretation due to differing priorities, biochemical behaviours and capacity for follow-up. Additionally, post mortem tryptase sampling site, method and even cut-off levels are not standardised between facilities. This review of the literature investigates the existing research and recommendations on the use of post mortem tryptase in suspected anaphylactic deaths. Currently, autopsy recommendations suggest early sampling, standardised sampling technique with clamping of and aspiration from the femoral vein, and for the results to be interpreted within the wider autopsy and clinical context. Areas in need of further research include the effects of cytolysis on tryptase levels and studies to stratify differing tryptase levels based on type of death and anaphylactic trigger.

Keywords: Anaphylaxis; Post mortem biochemistry; Post mortem tryptase; Tryptase.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anaphylaxis / diagnosis*
  • Artifacts
  • Asthma / blood
  • Biomarkers* / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Drug Overdose / blood
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Kounis Syndrome / blood
  • Mastocytosis / complications
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Reference Values
  • Resuscitation
  • Specimen Handling
  • Sudden Infant Death / blood
  • Tryptases / blood*
  • Wounds and Injuries / blood


  • Biomarkers
  • Tryptases