Causes of unexpected death in patients with multiple sclerosis: A forensic study of 50 cases

Miguel Angel Riudavets, Carlos Colegial, Ana Rubio, David Fowler, Carlos Pardo, Juan C. Troncoso

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


To determine the cause of death (as a result of neurologic or nonneurologic complications or accidents) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), we reviewed the autopsies of 50 subjects with MS from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Maryland (OCME) between 1982 and 2004. The series included 32 females and 18 males (mean age, 45.8 years; range, 25-69 years) and the causes of death were classified into 3 categories: (A) neurologic complication directly related to MS; (B) nonneurologic complications or other medical causes; and (C) accidents, etc. Of the 50 cases, in 43 there was a history of MS, but in 7 subjects there was not, and the diagnosis was established by neuropathologic examination. In Group A, 21 (42%) cases, deaths were directly related to a neurologic complication; in Group B, 14 (28%) cases were related to the following nonneurologic and medical causes: ASCVD 9 (18%), metabolic disorder 1 (2%), pulmonary embolism 3 (6%), and bronchopneumonia 1 (2%); and in Group C, 15 (30%) cases, deaths were due to trauma, 9 (18%); intoxication, 5 (10%); and thermal injury, 1 (2%). Thus, among the 50 subjects, in 26, deaths occurred naturally; and in 24, from accidents, homicides, suicides, or undetermined causes. Pathologically, the majority of cases showed either chronic inactive (66.7%) or chronic active (15.6%) demyelinating lesions, mainly in the cerebral hemispheres. In some cases, it appears that demyelinating lesions, involving brain regions that regulate cardiorespiratory activity, could be considered as the immediate cause of death, but a large proportion appears to be due to other causes such as accidents and trauma. Thus, it seems likely that taking specific precautions could prevent some deaths in MS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-249
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005


  • Demyelination
  • Medico-legal
  • Sudden death
  • White matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Causes of unexpected death in patients with multiple sclerosis: A forensic study of 50 cases'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this