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East African Medical Journal

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Causes of sudden natural death: A medicolegal (coroner’s) autopsy study of medical cases in an African referral centre

EE Ugiagbe, RA Ugiagbe

Abstract


Objective: To evaluate and characterise the causes of sudden natural deaths (SNDs) that occurred in medical cases in an African referral centre.
Design: A descriptive retrospective study.
Setting: University of Benin Teaching Hospital, between January 2005 and December 2011.
Subjects: Autopsy reports of 626 cases that were referred to the coroner.
Results: A total of 626 cases of SNDs were identified representing 30.3% of all autopsies performed within the period. There were 390 (62.3%) males and 236 (37.7%) females with a M:F ratio of 1.7:1. The age range of the cases was 19-105 years with a mean age of 51±17 years. The modal age group was 40-49 years which accounted for 19.8% of the cases, and most of the cases (56.8%) were seen in the 30-59 year age groups. In majority of cases (39.3%), the cause of death was related to the cardio-vascular systemprincipally death due to complications of hypertension which was seen in 88.2% of the cardio-vascular system diseases. Immune/infectious diseases (mainly AIDS), gastro-intestinal/hepatic lesions and respiratory diseases were seen in 15.2, 14.1 and 12.5% of cases respectively. SNDs due to malignant neoplasms were not a common finding as they occurred in 5.1% of cases.
Conclusion: This study shows that with the increasing modernisation of our lifestyle and dietary habits, cardio-vascular system diseases-particularly complications of hypertension have become the leading cause of sudden natural death in our environment.



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