Objective: To evaluate autopsy findings in hypothermia-related deaths in Van Province, Turkey, a city near the Turkey–Iran border.
Methods: Autopsy reports on 43 hypothermia fatalities were retrospectively reviewed. Data regarding age, gender, nationality of the cases, seasonality of the deaths, crime scene findings, autopsy findings, manner of deaths, risk factors for hypothermia, other traumatic lesions, and toxicology were obtained from autopsy records and scene investigation records.
Results: There were 36 males and 7 females. The mean age was 20.5 years. More than half of the cases died or were found dead in the spring months. All but one of the cases was found dead outdoors. There were common red-coloured livor mortis in 33 cases (76.7%), antemortem traumas in 16 cases (37.2%), cold erythema in 26 cases (60.5%), myxedema in 1 case, bloody discolouration in the synovial fluid in 11 (84.6%) cases, and Wischnewski spots in 32 cases (74.4%).
Conclusion: The study showed that illegal refugees are an important social problem in Turkey. Hypothermia should be considered as a cause of death for refugees when they are found, especially in the cold provinces. In the diagnosis of hypothermia, bloody discolouration of the synovial fluid is confirmed to be a valuable finding. Wischnewski spots remain valuable for positive identification.