Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo 2006 Volume 134, Issue 11-12, Pages: 541-545
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Undiagnosed tuberculosis as clinical, epidemiological and medicolegal problem: Report of two cases

Savić Slobodan, Savić Branislava, Škodrić Vesna

The authors present two cases of undiagnosed tuberculosis in order to point out clinical, epidemiological and medicolegal importance of such cases. The first patient was a 29- year old woman, who died after 10-day hospital treatment, but true nature of her disease remained undiscovered. Due to her known marital problems, as well as numerous bruises developed as a consequence of hemorrhagic syndrome, violent death caused by injuries inflicted by her husband was suspected. Medicolegal autopsy and microscopic examination revealed fatal tuberculosis of the lungs, and small and large intestines. In another case, a 35-year old male died suddenly and unexpectedly, being found dead in his flat where numerous blood traces were noticed during the scene investigation. Therefore, possible homicide was suspected. Medicolegal investigation proved pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of natural death. Presented cases point out the fact that even nowadays both pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis may remain clinically undiscovered, even when this disease is a cause of death. Hence, physicians should always keep in mind possible tuberculosis, especially in patients with long-lasting typical symptoms and signs. In both reported cases, the individuals suffered from cavernous pulmonary tuberculosis being thus a permanent source of infection. From medicolegal point of view, described cases represent examples of so called suspicious natural death. On the other hand, the fact that fatal tuberculosis remained clinically undiagnosed may make physicians be accused of medical negligence and malpractice.

Keywords: tuberculosis, diagnosis, suspicious death

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