Sarcoidosis and mechanisms of unexpected death

Roger W Byard, Nicholas Manton, Michael Tsokos
Journal of Forensic Sciences 2008, 53 (2): 460-4
Sarcoidosis is a multisystem disease of uncertain etiology characterized by multifocal areas of discrete and confluent granulomatous inflammation that may rarely be responsible for sudden and unexpected death. Two cases are reported to demonstrate disparate pathological features in fatal cases, one involving cardiac sarcoidosis, and the other neurosarcoidosis with hypothalamic infiltration. Sarcoidosis in individuals dying suddenly may be completely unrelated to the death, contributory or causal. Cardiovascular causes of sudden death in sarcoidosis include arrhythmias associated with cardiomyopathy and ischemia, ventricular rupture, and cor pulmonale due to pulmonary hypertension; respiratory causes include hemorrhage and upper airway obstruction; central nervous system causes include arrhythmias from infiltration of autonomic centers, epilepsy, and obstructive hydrocephalus from brainstem involvement; and gastrointestinal deaths may be due to hemorrhage from esophageal varices associated with portal hypertension. The diagnosis relies on the demonstration of typical noncaseating granulomas and the exclusion of other infective and environmental diseases with similar histopathological findings.

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