Death caused by freezing is thought to occur without anatomic changes. Delafield and Prudden1 say that "while exposure of the entire body to cold may cause death there is nothing characteristic in the postmortem findings." There is "a general reduction of the activity of the body functions and cerebral ischemia with slowed respiration, low blood pressure and pulse rate, great somnolence and ultimately coma." McCallum2 says:
With prolonged exposure to extreme cold there is at first excitement and unrest but later the skin becomes livid and pale, blood is driven back into the interior of the body, the temperature sinks, metabolism is slowed in all of the organs and their activity consequently reduced. The respiration becomes shallow and the pulse small and weak, the temperature still sinks and when it reaches 20 to 18 C. the heart stops beating and death follows. Nothing distinctive is found at autopsy.
BENDER L. LESIONS IN THE BRAIN IN DEATH CAUSED BY FREEZING. Arch NeurPsych. 1928;20(2):319–328. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1928.02210140087006
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