Healed Fracture of Superior Horn of Thyroid Cartilage in Autoerotic Asphyxia: An Indication of Prior Activity? A Case Report Utilizing 3D Scanning and Printing of the Larynx

Michael Eckhardt, Kabeer Shah, Melanie Bois, Joseph Maleszewski, Kellyanna Moore, Peter Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Evidence of prior autoerotic asphyxia is often difficult to establish due to the decedent's efforts to hide the activity from others. In this case report, we suggest that a healed fracture of the thyroid cartilage is indicative of prior autoerotic asphyxia activity. The decedent was a 45-year-old man who was found unclothed on the floor of his bedroom with a belt ligature around the neck. A second rope ligature was loosely wrapped around the decedent's wrists, scrotum, and penis. A definitive escape mechanism was not identified, but a nearby towel and barbell weight may have comprised a possible escape mechanism. There was no known history of depression or prior autoerotic activity. Autopsy was notable for the presence of a healed fracture of the right superior horn of the thyroid cartilage. Three-dimensional (3D) surface scanning and 3D printing was utilized to preserve the anatomical findings prior to histologic sampling. To our knowledge, this is the first reported use of 3D surface scanning and 3D printing for the purpose of documenting a forensic finding prior to alteration of the anatomical specimen for histologic sampling. Acute fractures of the superior horns of the thyroid cartilage are not infrequently seen in ligature hanging. Therefore, the presence of a healed fracture in the setting of autoerotic asphyxia likely indicates prior activity. Histologic sampling of the laryngeal cartilages to detect occult healed fractures in autoerotic asphyxia may be useful. Three-dimensional scanning and printing may alleviate concerns for specimen alteration due to histology sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-179
Number of pages10
JournalAcademic Forensic Pathology
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018

Keywords

  • 3D printing
  • 3D surface scanning
  • Autoerotic asphyxia
  • Autopsy
  • Forensic pathology
  • Healed neck fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

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