The importance of the histopathological examination in lethal acute intoxication with ethylene glycol. Case report

Vol. 59 No. 3, 2018


Claudia Teodora Judea-Pusta, Gabriela Mutiu, Andrei Vasile Pascalau, Camelia Liana Buhas, Adina Nicoleta Ciursas, Carmen Delia Nistor-Cseppento, Alina Bodea, Adrian Sorin Judea, Razvan Marius Vicas, Luciana Dobjanschi, Ovidiu Laurean Pop

Ethylene glycol is a toxic alcohol that is mainly introduced into an organism through the digestive pathway. Its priority toxic metabolites are glycolic acid and oxalic acid. We present the case of a young person, of the male persuasion, without any personal pathological history, found unconscious and presenting signs of violence. The patient is emergency hospitalized presenting coma, convulsive syndrome, severe metabolic acidosis and a positive result for alcoholism. Anamnestic data is extremely poor. The results of the clinical and paraclinical examinations suggest a possible poisoning with toxic alcohols. Despite the drug treatment and the hemodialysis, the evolution is unfavorable, resulting in death one week after admission. Through the forensic examination, the followings were found: cerebral and leptomeningeal edema, focal cerebral microhemorrhages, bronchopneumonia, septic spleen, shock kidney, hepatic fatty dystrophy, excoriated plaques in the head area. The histopathological (HP) examination confirms the macroscopic diagnosis and identifies the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in the kidney tubules. Subsequently, the toxicological examination of the biological samples taken from the corpse at the forensic examination, confirms the presence of the glycolic acid. Postmortem, the investigation conducted by the criminal investigation authorities confirms the oral ingestion of antifreeze. The absence of a positive history, along with alcohol consumption, nonspecific clinical symptomatology and the absence of calcium oxalate in urine are trap elements in the diagnosis of acute ethylene glycol poisoning. The presence of calcium oxalate in tissues, identified through the HP examination, is an extremely important factor when establishing the cause of death.

Corresponding author: Camelia Liana Buhas, Associate Professor, MD, PhD; e-mail:; Claudia Teodora Judea-Pusta, Lecturer, MD, PhD; e-mail:

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