Death from pulmonary thromboembolism in severe obesity: Lack of association with established genetic and clinical risk factors

Hagen Blaszyk, Peter C. Wollan, Agnieszka K. Witkiewicz, Johannes Björnsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Several clinical and environmental conditions are causally related to sudden death from acute pulmonary thromboembolism (APT). Morbid obesity, despite its frequency and association with adverse health effects, is usually considered at most only an additive risk factor for APT. We reviewed protocols and histories from 7227 consecutive autopsies performed between 1985 and 1996 at the Mayo Clinic, including all deaths from APT where no clinical or environmental risk factor could be identified in the study. Body mass indices (BMI) were calculated and compared with those of age- and sex-matched controls who had died suddenly and naturally without evidence of APT. Resistance to activated protein C is the most common molecular clotting defect predisposing to APT, and it is caused by a point mutation in the factor V gene (R506Q). Genomic DNA was extracted from archival tissues of all cases and controls, and the R506Q status was determined by polymerase chain reaction amplification, restriction endonuclease digestion, and direct sequencing. APT was found as the immediate cause of death in 433 patients, with 36 (8%) having no previously established risk factors. Twenty-four of these persons (67%) were morbidly obese (BMI > 30 kg/m2), compared with only five controls (14%, P < 0.0001). Four patients in both groups, each with a BMI < 30 kg/m2, had at least one allele positive for R506Q. Morbid obesity is an independent risk factor in cases of sudden death from APT after the exclusion of previously established clinical, environmental, and molecular risk factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)529-532
Number of pages4
JournalVirchows Archiv
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 30 1999


  • Autopsy
  • Factor V gene
  • Obesity
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Sudden death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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