Keywords of this word: Death


ACCIDENTAL DEATH

Medical Dictionary

In 2000, more than 12,000 people died in or as a result of accidents in the UK, nearly half occurring at home and around a third in motor vehicle incidents. Many of these deaths would have been preventable, had appropriate safety measures been taken. A high proportion of deaths from accidents occur in males between ?ve and 34 years of age; alcohol is a signi?cant factor. Since the introduction of compulsory use of car seatbelts in the UK in the 1980s, the incidence of deaths from driving has fallen. With employers more aware of the risks of injury and death in the work place – with legislation reinforcing education – the number of such incidents has fallen over the past 50 years or more: this group now accounts for less than 2 per cent of all accidental deaths. Accidental deaths in the elderly are mainly caused by falls, mostly at home. In infants, choking is a signi?cant cause of accidental death, with food and small objects presenting the main hazards. Poisoning (often from drug overdose) and drowning are notable causes between the mid-20s and mid-40s.

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B NOSED. THE TEST FOR BRAIN-STEM DEATH ARE:

Medical Dictionary

Fixed dilated pupils of the eyes

Absent CORNEAL REFLEX

Absent VESTIBULO-OCULAR REFLEX

No cranial motor response to somatic (physical) stimulation

Absent gag and cough re?exes

No respiratory e?ort in response to APNOEA despite adequate concentrations of CARBON DIOXIDE in the arterial blood.... Medical Dictionary

BLACK DEATH

Medical Dictionary

An old name for PLAGUE.... Medical Dictionary

BRAIN-STEM DEATH

Medical Dictionary

Brain damage, resulting in the irreversible loss of brain function, renders the individual incapable of life without the aid of a VENTILATOR. Criteria have been developed to recognise that ‘death’ has occurred and to allow ventilation to be stopped: in the UK, these criteria require the patient to be irreversibly unconscious and unable to regain the capacity to breathe spontaneously. (See also GLASGOW COMA SCALE and PERSISTENT VEGETATIVE STATE (PVS).)

All reversible pharmacological, metabolic, endocrine and physiological causes must be excluded, and there should be no doubt that irreversible brain damage has occurred. Two senior doctors carry out diagnostic tests to con?rm that brain-stem re?exes are absent. These tests must be repeated after a suitable interval before death can be declared. Imaging techniques are not required for death to be diag-... Medical Dictionary

CAUSE OF DEATH

Community Health

For the purpose of national mortality statistics, every death is attributed to one underlying condition, based on information reported on the death certificate and using the international rules for selecting the underlying cause of death from the reported conditions. See “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, tenth revision (ICD-10)”.... Community Health

CAUSE-OF-DEATH RANKING

Community Health

Cause-of-death ranking for adults is based on the List of 72 Selected Causes of Death, HIV Infection, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The List was adapted from one of the special lists for mortality tabulations recommended for use with the International Classification of Diseases, ninth revision. Two group titles – “Major cardiovascular diseases” and “Symptoms, signs, and ill-defined conditions” – are not ranked based on the list of 72 selected causes. In addition, category titles that begin with the words “other” and “all other” are not ranked. The remaining category titles are ranked according to number of deaths to determine the leading causes of death. When one of the titles that represents a subtotal is ranked (for example, unintentional injuries), its component parts are not ranked (in this case, motor vehicle crashes and all other unintentional injuries).... Community Health

COT DEATH

Medical Dictionary

See SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS).... Medical Dictionary

DEATH CERTIFICATE

Medical Dictionary

A certi?cate required by law to be signed by a medical practitioner stating the main and any contributary causes of a person’s death.... Medical Dictionary

DEATH RATE

Community Health

The proportion of deaths in a specified population. The death rate is calculated by dividing the number of deaths in a population in a year by the midyear resident population. Death rates are often expressed as the number of deaths per 100 000 persons. The rate may be restricted to deaths in specific age, race, sex, or geographic groups or deaths from specific causes of death (specific rate), or it may be related to the entire population (crude rate).... Community Health

DEATH RATE

Medical Dictionary

The death (mortality rate) is the number of deaths per 100,000 – or sometimes 10,000 or 1,000 – of the population per year. In 2001 the population of the UK was 59.8 million, of whom 9 million were over 65 and 4.2 million over 75. Females comprised 30.33 million and males 29.47. In 2003 – the latest year for which ?gures are available – the death rate was 7.2 per 1,000 population; in 1980 the ?gure was

11.8. The total mortality comprises individual deaths from di?erent causes: for example, accidents, cancer, coronary artery disease, strokes and suicides. Mortality is often calculated for speci?c groups in epidemiological (see EPIDEMIOLOGY) studies of particular diseases. Infant mortality measures the deaths of babies born alive who die during the ?rst year of life: infant deaths per 1,000 live births were steady at around 5 from 2003–2005.... Medical Dictionary

DEATH, CAUSES OF

Medical Dictionary

The ?nal cause of death is usually the failure of the vital centres in the brain that control the beating of the heart and the act of breathing. The important practical question, however, is what disease, injury or other agent has led to this failure. Sometimes the cause may be obvious – for example, pneumonia, coronary thrombosis, or brain damage in a road accident. Often, however, the cause can be uncertain, in which case a POST-MORTEM EXAMINATION is necessary.

The two most common causes of death in the UK are diseases of the circulatory system (including strokes and heart disease) and cancer.

Overall annual death rates among women in the UK at the start of the 21st century were

7.98 per 1,000 population, and among men,

5.58 per 1,000. Comparable ?gures at the start of the 20th century were 16.3 for women and

18.4 for men. The death rates in 1900 among infants up to the age of four were 47.9 per 1,000 females and 57 per 1,000 males. By 2003 these numbers had fallen to 5.0 and 5.8 respectively. All these ?gures give a crude indication of how the health of Britain’s population has improved in the past century.

Death rates and ?gures on the causes of deaths are essential statistics in the study of EPIDEMIOLOGY which, along with information on the incidence of illnesses and injuries, provides a temporal and geographical map of changing health patterns in communities. Such information is valuable in planning preventive health measures (see PUBLIC HEALTH) and in identifying the natural history of diseases – knowledge that often contributes to the development of preventive measures and treatments for those diseases.... Medical Dictionary

DEATH, SIGNS OF

Medical Dictionary

There are some minor signs, such as: relaxation of the facial muscles (which produces the staring eye and gaping mouth of the ‘Hippocratic countenance’), as well as a loss of the curves of the back, which becomes ?at by contact with the bed or table; discoloration of the skin, which takes on a wax-yellow hue and loses its pink transparency at the ?nger-webs; absence of blistering and redness if the skin is burned (Christison’s sign); and failure of a ligature tied round the ?nger to produce, after its removal, the usual change of a white ring, which, after a few seconds, becomes redder than the surrounding skin in a living person.

The only certain sign of death, however, is that the heart has stopped beating. To ensure that this is permanent, it is necessary to listen over the heart with a stethoscope, or directly with the ear, for at least ?ve minutes. Permanent stoppage of breathing should also be con?rmed by observing that a mirror held before the mouth shows no haze, or that a feather placed on the upper lip does not ?utter.

In the vast majority of cases there is no dif?culty in ensuring that death has occurred. The introduction of organ transplantation, however, and of more e?ective mechanical means of resuscitation, such as ventilators, whereby an individual’s heart can be kept beating almost inde?nitely, has raised di?culties in a minority of cases. To solve the problem in these cases the concept of ‘brain death’ has been introduced. In this context it has to be borne in mind that there is no legal de?nition of death. Death has traditionally been diagnosed by the irreversible cessation of respiration and heartbeat. In the Code of Practice drawn up in 1983 by a Working Party of the Health Departments of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, however, it is stated that ‘death can also be diagnosed by the irreversible cessation of brain-stem function’. This is described as ‘brain death’. The brain stem consists of the mid-brain, pons and medulla oblongata which contain the centres controlling the vital processes of the body such as consciousness, breathing and the beating of the heart (see BRAIN). This new concept of death, which has been widely accepted in medical and legal circles throughout the world, means that it is now legitimate to equate brain death with death; that the essential component of brain death is death of the brain stem; and that a dead brain stem can be reliably diagnosed at the bedside. (See GLASGOW COMA SCALE.)

Four points are important in determining the time that has elapsed since death. HYPOSTASIS, or congestion, begins to appear as livid spots on the back, often mistaken for bruises, three hours or more after death. This is due to the blood running into the vessels in the lowest parts. Loss of heat begins at once after death, and the body has become as cold as the surrounding air after 12 hours – although this is delayed by hot weather, death from ASPHYXIA, and some other causes. Rigidity, or rigor mortis, begins in six hours, takes another six to become fully established, remains for 12 hours and passes o? during the succeeding 12 hours. It comes on quickly when extreme exertion has been indulged in immediately before death; conversely it is slow in onset and slight in death from wasting diseases, and slight or absent in children. It begins in the small muscles of the eyelid and jaw and then spreads over the body. PUTREFACTION is variable in time of onset, but usually begins in 2–3 days, as a greenish tint over the abdomen.... Medical Dictionary

DEATH, SUDDEN

Medical Dictionary

If deaths from accidents are excluded, this term means the unexpected death of an apparently healthy person. CARDIAC ARREST is the most common cause of sudden death. Older people (35 years or above) who su?er cardiac arrest commonly have coronary artery disease (see HEART, DISEASES OF) with restriction or stoppage of blood supply to part of the heart which causes INFARCTION (heart attack). Irregularity of the heartbeat (cardiac ARRHYTHMIA) is another cause. MYOCARDITIS, PNEUMONIA and STROKE can also result in sudden death, as can ASTHMA, anaphylactic shock (see ANAPHYLAXIS), ruptured aortic ANEURYSM and SUICIDE, the incidence of which is rising, especially among young people, and is over 4,000 a year in the UK.

Sudden death sometimes occurs in infants, usually in the ?rst year of life: this is called SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS) or, colloquially, cot death, the possible causes of which are an ongoing subject for research and debate.

When a person dies unexpectedly the event must be reported to a CORONER, who has the power to decide whether an AUTOPSY is necessary.... Medical Dictionary

SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME (SIDS)

Medical Dictionary

Sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death, refers to the unexpected death – usually during sleep – of an apparently healthy baby. Well over 1,500 such cases are thought to have occurred in the United Kingdom each year until 1992, when government advice was issued about laying babies on their backs. The ?gure was 192 in 2002 and continues to fall. Boys are a?ected more than girls, and over half of these deaths occur at the age of 2–6 months. More common in lower social classes, the incidence is highest in the winter; most of the infants have been bottle-fed (see also INFANT FEEDING).

Causes These are unknown, with possible multiple aetiology. Prematurity and low birth-weight may play a role. The sleeping position of a baby and an over-warm environment may be major factors, since deaths have fallen sharply since mothers were o?cially advised to place babies on their backs and not to overheat them. Some deaths are probably the result of respiratory infections, usually viral, which may stop breathing in at-risk infants, while others may result from the infant becoming smothered in a soft pillow. Faults in the baby’s central breathing control system (central APNOEA) may be a factor. Other possible factors include poor socioeconomic environment; vitamin E de?ciency; or smoking, drug addiction or anaemia in the mother. Help and advice may be obtained from the Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths and the Cot Death Society.... Medical Dictionary