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Glycocorticosteroids and Ketone Bodies as Markers of Death From Hypothermia

NCJ Number
Problems of Forensic Sciences Volume: 74 Dated: 2008 Pages: 161-167
Krzysztof Banka; Grzegorz Teresinski; Grzegorz Buszewicz; Roman Madro
Date Published
This Polish study determined whether hypothermia has any influence on coricosterone, cortisone, and cortisol concentrations, and it compared the usefulness of this determination in relation to previously studied ketone bodies, particularly in individuals who were under the influence of alcohol at the time of death.
The study determined that in individuals in a state of hypothermia who chronically abuse alcohol, severe ketonemia may occur due to an increase only in beta-hydroxybutyric acid (beta-HBA), without significant acetonaemia. The study also found that excessive cooling of the body increased secretion of glycocorticosteroids (particularly cortisol) in intoxicated individuals or alcoholics. These findings indicate that determination of beta-HBA and glycocorticosteroids concentrations may also be useful for diagnosing excessive cooling in cases of deaths of intoxicated individuals and alcohol abusers. The blood samples were collected from femoral veins of deceased individuals who had died in circumstances that indicated excessive cooling. All were alcoholics; and, except for one person, were intoxicated with an ethanol concentration above 2 g/l. The control group was composed of 10 individuals who had died at the scene from hanging or a road accident. Glycocorticosteroids (cortisol, cortisone, and corticosterone) were determined by the method previously developed by the authors, using a Thermo Finnigan Surveyor liquid chromatograph coupled to an LCQ Advantage Max atmospheric pressure chemical ionization ion trap mass spectrometer. Beta-HBA was determined by a method that was previously developed by the authors with application of a gas chromatography coupled to an electron impact quadrupole mass detector. Analysis of acetone and ethanol in postmortem blood was performed by static head space analysis. 1 table, 5 figures, and 17 references