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Open Access Research article

Atherosclerosis in young Brazilians suffering violent deaths: a pathological study

Manoel ES Modelli12*, Áurea S Cherulli2, Lenora Gandolfi1 and Riccardo Pratesi1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Post Graduate School of Health Sciences, University of Brasilia, Brasília, Brazil

2 Institute of Legal Medicine of the Federal District, Brasília, Brazil

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BMC Research Notes 2011, 4:531  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-531

Published: 12 December 2011



Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke, which can cause sudden death in adulthood. In general, the clinical manifestations of cardiovascular diseases are caused by atherosclerosis, which is a process that starts during middle age. More recent studies indicate that the atherosclerotic process begins during childhood.


To evaluate the extent of atherosclerotic disease in young Brazilians, we conducted a study of the pathological alterations in the major arteries of victims of violent death. Samples of the right carotid artery, left coronary artery, and thoracic aorta of young victims of violent death were analyzed and graded in accordance with the histological atherosclerotic lesion types proposed by the American Heart Association. Samples were collected from 100 individuals who had died from external causes, aged from 12 to 33 years.


The majority of cases (83%) were male, and 66% of deaths were homicides caused by firearms. The median age was 20.0 years and mean body mass index was 20.9 kg/m2. Of the right carotid artery specimens, 3% were normal, 55% had type I, 40% had type II, 1% had type III, and 1% had type IV atherosclerotic lesions. Of the left coronary artery specimens, 5% were normal, 48% had type I, 41% had type II, 3% had type III, and 3% had type IV lesions. Of the thoracic aorta specimens, none were normal, 13% had type I, 64% had type II, 22% had type III, and 1% had type IV lesions. Overall, 97.34% of arteries examined had some degree of atherosclerosis. The most common histological type was type II (foam cells). No thoracic aorta specimens were normal, and the coronary artery specimens had the most atherosclerosis.


Our results show a high prevalence of atherosclerotic lesions among young people in Brazil. Intervention should be undertaken to decrease the rate of sudden cardiac death in the adult population.

atherosclerosis; sudden death; young; pathological study