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Betz, P.; Beier, G.; Eisenmenger, Wolfgang (1994): Pulmonary giant cells and traumatic asphyxia. In: International Journal of Legal Medicine, Vol. 106, No. 5: pp. 258-261




A morphometrical analysis was performed to elucidate the significance of pulmonary polynuclear giant cells as a histological sign of asphyxiation. A total of 13 cases of homicidal strangulation of throttling, 8 cases of traumatic asphyxia due to chest compression and 10 control cases (cause of death: severe head injury, no signs of aspiration or other relevant pulmonary alterations, smokers and non-smokers) were investigated. The number of alveolar macrophages containing 1 or 2 nuclei and of polynuclear giant cells per microscopic field (0.000025 cm2) was estimated and a statistical evaluation was carried out. A considerable individual variation was observed in all groups with a tendency to higher numbers of cells in cases of smokers or advanced individual age. However, no significant differences were detectable in the content of alveolar macrophages and in particular of polynuclear giant cells between the asphyxiated individuals and the controls. Since polynuclear giant cells occurred in similar amounts in healthy, functionally normal lungs of non-asphyxiated individuals, the detection of such cells cannot be regarded as a reliable indicator for asphyxiation.