Café coronary syndrome – case report and medicolegal implications

Medico-Legal Journal, Ahead of Print.
Café coronary syndrome is a term used to describe a sudden collapse of healthy subjects during meals in the absence of any sign of asphyxia, respiratory distress, or neurological symptoms. Risk factors are advanced age, poor dentition, alcohol intoxication, and dementia or psychiatric disorders. One of the main problems with this syndrome is that, even when witnessed, it is often confused with myocardial infarction due to the absence of asphyxia symptoms. This leads to misdiagnosis and potential delays in patients’ treatment that can eventually have fatal outcomes. As a result of that, medico-legal litigation may arise. This paper presents a typical case of fatal café coronary syndrome misdiagnosed as a myocardial infarction. The legal authority that requested the autopsy asked about the potential professional negligence of the healthcare providers who took care of the patient. We discuss the clinical and medico-legal aspects of café coronary syndrome.

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