Background: Drug concentrations obtained from post mortem samples do not necessarily reflect the
concentrations at the time of death, and variations of concentration may be observed between different sites
and/or different sampling times. These phenomena, collectively termed post mortem redistribution, concern numerous
molecules (medications, drugs of abuse, gases, etc.) and can complicate the interpretation of toxicological
Methods: Literature review.
Results: The mechanisms that cause these phenomena are complex and often intricate. Certain organs, which
concentrate the molecules before death, may release them very early in the vascular sector. The gastrointestinal
tract, liver, lungs and myocardium are mainly concerned. Cell autolysis also plays a part in drug release. Furthermore,
micro-organisms (mainly bacteria and yeasts) which colonize the organism during putrefaction may cause
neoformation and/or the degradation of certain molecules. Lastly, it appears that the physicochemical and pharmacokinetic
profile of xenobiotics, notably their lipophilic nature, their ionization state and their volume of distribution
may be factors likely to influence redistribution phenomena. Some recommendations concerning
anatomic sampling sites, sampling methods and sample storage make it possible to limit these phenomena.