Quantitation of vitreous potassium has been put forward as a reliable method of determining the time of death. It is known that, as time since death increases, so does the concentration of potassium. Sturner and Gantner developed a formula for estimating the time of death based on a uniform
increase in vitreous potassium.5 However, this formula has since been proven incorrect. Graphs published in the same article are also of little help due to their wide margin of error. Coe estimates that, when using potassium levels to determine time of death, in the first 24 h after death, the potential variability is ±10 h; the first 48 h ±20 h, and the first 72 h ±30 h (John Coe, personal communication). The wide variation is because increases in potassium concentration in the vitreous are controlled by the rate of decomposition. Anything that accelerates decomposition, e.g., high temperature, will increase potassium rise.
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