Journal Article

An Unusual Case of Death: Suffocation Caused by Leaves of Common Ivy (<i>Hedera helix</i>). Detection of Hederacoside C, α-Hederin, and Hederagenin by LC—EI/MS-MS

Yvan Gaillard, Pierre Blaise, Alexandre Darré, Thierry Barbier and Gilbert Pépin

in Journal of Analytical Toxicology

Volume 27, issue 4, pages 257-262
Published in print May 2003 | ISSN: 0146-4760
Published online May 2003 | e-ISSN: 1945-2403 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jat/27.4.257
An Unusual Case of Death: Suffocation Caused by Leaves of Common Ivy (Hedera helix). Detection of Hederacoside C, α-Hederin, and Hederagenin by LC—EI/MS-MS

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We report one fatal case of asphyxia caused by leaves of common ivy. Macroscopic examination of the corpse during the autopsy disclosed an incredible quantity of leaves of Hedera helix in the mouth and throat of the decedent. In order to rule out the possibility of poisoning by the toxic saponins contained in the plant, we have developed an efficient LC—EI/MS-MS assay of hederacoside C, α-hederin, and hederagenin in biological fluids and plant material. Sample cleanup involved solid-phase extraction of the toxins on C18 cartridges followed by LC analysis under reversed-phase conditions in the gradient elution mode. Solute identification was performed using full scan MS-MS spectrum of the analytes. Oleandrine was used as internal standard. Under these conditions, saponins in powdered dried leaves of Hedera helix were measured at a concentration of 21.83 mg/g for hederacoside C, 0.41 mg/g for α-hederin and 0.02 mg/g for hederagenin. No toxin was detected in cardiac blood, femoral blood, or urine of the deceased, but hederacoside C was quantitated at 857 ng/mL in the gastric juice. These findings led us to conclude that the man committed suicide and that the death was caused by suffocation by leaves of common ivy.

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Subjects: Medical Toxicology ; Toxicology (Non-medical)

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