Diagnostics (Oct 2020)

Post-Mortem Investigations for the Diagnosis of Sepsis: A Review of Literature

  • Chiara Stassi,
  • Cristina Mondello,
  • Gennaro Baldino,
  • Elvira Ventura Spagnolo

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 849
p. 849


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To date, sepsis is still one of the most important causes of death due to the difficulties concerning the achievement of a correct diagnosis. As well as in a clinical context, also in a medico-legal setting the diagnosis of sepsis can reveal challenging due to the unspecificity of the signs detected during autopsies, especially when no ante-mortem clinical data, laboratory, and cultural results are available. Thus, a systematic review of literature was performed to provide an overview of the main available and updated forensic tools for the post-mortem diagnosis of sepsis. Moreover, the aim of this review was to evaluate whether a marker or a combination of markers exist, specific enough to allow a correct and definite post-mortem diagnosis. The review was conducted searching in PubMed and Scopus databases, and using variable combinations of the keywords “post mortem sepsis diagnosis”, “macroscopic signs”, “morphology”, “histology”, “immunohistochemical markers”, “biochemical markers”, and “forensic microbiology”. The article selection was carried out following specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. A total of 44 works was identified, providing data on morphological aspects of the organs examined, histological findings, immunohistochemical and biochemical markers, and cultural assays. The review findings suggested that the post-mortem diagnosis of sepsis can be achieved by a combination of data obtained from macroscopic and microscopic analysis and microbial investigations, associated with the increased levels of at least two of three biochemical and/or immunohistochemical markers evaluated simultaneously on blood samples.