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September 2022

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1992 Sep; 13(3): 204-6.

Fatal hypokalemic thyrotoxic periodic paralysis presenting as the sudden, unexplained death of a Cambodian refugee.

Randall BB.

University of South Dakota School of Medicine, Sioux Falls.

For the last decade, death investigators have been aware of an unexplained syndrome of sudden death occurring among young adult Southeast Asian refugees. Presented here is a rare instance of fatal hypokalemic periodic paralysis associated with thyrotoxicosis masquerading as the sudden, unexplained death of a Cambodian refugee. The usual features of this syndrome were present, including relatively occult thyrotoxicosis, paralysis upon awakening following a high-carbohydrate meal, and hypokalemia. This case illustrates the value of thorough background death investigation and also illustrates the potential of misinterpreting traditional folk medicine coin rubbing (Cao Gio) as signs of physical abuse.

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