A 23-year review of sudden natural death autopsies in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria

  • D Seleye-Fubara
  • EN Etebu

Abstract

Background: Death occurring suddenly especially when the victim was active and recently fit, call for attention and thorough investigation to rule out secret homicide.
Aim: To study the pattern of sudden natural death in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
Methodology: The coroner's autopsy reports and hospital autopsy protocols of sudden deaths of 23 years (1986-2008) were reviewed. Sudden deaths due to natural causes were selected for this study and the variables considered were the age, gender, locations of death and the system bearing the disease that caused death at autopsy
Results: A total of 445 deaths satisfied the criteria for this study. One hundred and fifty seven (35.3%) deaths occurred in children aged 17 years and below of which the  highest frequency occurred in neonates of ages 0 - 4 weeks [82(18.4%)]. A total of 288 deaths occurred in adults, of which the highest frequency [82(18.4%)] occurred in the age group 58-67 years. Two hundred and ninety two deaths occurred in males and 153 in females giving ratio of 1.9:1. The urban setting had 267(60%) of cases while the rural areas had 178(40%) cases. Cardio-vascular death was the most common overall death [146(32.8%)] and this was found more in adults while respiratory death was commoner in childhood and second overall cause of death [97(21.8%)].
Conclusion:  Sudden death from natural cause calls for attention and thorough investigation since the victim was previously healthy and fit without the manifestation of underlying disease. This type of death is therefore viewed with suspicion.
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