Aspiration-related deaths in 57 consecutive patients: Autopsy study

Xiaowen Hu, Eunhee S. Yi, Jay H. Ryu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Aspiration can cause a diverse spectrum of pulmonary disorders some of which can lead to death but can be difficult to diagnose. Patients and Methods: The medical records and autopsy findings of 57 consecutive patients in whom aspiration was the immediate cause of death at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN, USA) over a 9-yr period, from January 1 2004 to December 31 2012 were analyzed. Results: The median age at death was 72 years (range, 13-95 years) and included 39 (68%) males. The most common symptom before death was dyspnea (63%) and chest radiography revealed bilateral infiltrates in the majority (81%). Most common precipitating factors for aspiration were depressed consciousness (46%) and dysphagia (44%). Aspiration-related syndromes leading to death were aspiration pneumonia in 26 (46%), aspiration pneumonitis in 25 (44%), and large airway obstruction in 6 patients (11%). Aspiration was clinically unsuspected in 19 (33%) patients. Antimicrobial therapy had been empirically administered to most patients (90%) with aspiration pneumonia and aspiration pneumonitis. Conclusion: We conclude aspiration-related deaths occur most commonly in the elderly with identifiable risks and presenting bilateral pulmonary infiltrates. One-third of these aspiration-related pulmonary syndromes were clinically unsuspected at the time of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere103795
JournalPloS one
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 30 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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