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Keywords:

  • forensic science;
  • unexpected death;
  • elderly;
  • gastrointestinal;
  • Littre hernia;
  • Meckel diverticulum

Abstract:  A rare case of sudden and unexpected death is reported in an 87-year-old woman who was found dead at her home. At autopsy, the most striking finding was of a right-sided direct inguinal hernia containing a 20 mm infarcted Meckel diverticulum, with proximal small intestinal obstruction. Significant stenosing atherosclerosis was present in all three major epicardial coronary arteries, but with no histological evidence of acute or chronic ischemic myocardial damage. Death was attributed to small intestinal obstruction due to direct inguinal herniation (and infarction) of a Meckel diverticulum (a Littre hernia), complicating ischemic heart disease. Although Littre hernias are not a reported cause of sudden death in the elderly, congenital gastrointestinal anomalies may rarely play a significant role in terminal episodes well beyond childhood years. The autopsy assessment of sudden death at any age involves detailed examination of the entire length of the intestinal tract.