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Forensic interest may then become a question of causation and how long the asphyxia lasted before death occurred.The latter may be important in cases where family members witnessed the suffering of the decedent.Most of us are familiar with the feeling of pain of lactic acidosis after a demanding workout.Asphyxia can be limited to a regional tissue deprived of blood [e.g.When water or another liquid fills the lungs causing asphyxia, this is called drowning.There are several variations such as near-drowning, secondary drowning and immersion syndrome.In many cases, human extremities can be deprived of blood flow for more than 30 minutes without damage while the central nervous system, specifically those portions involved in consciousness, will not continue to function for more than a few seconds without oxygen.The disruption of cell metabolism in the tissues and the accumulation of toxic by-products result in patho-physiological consequences such as tissue necrosis, loss of consciousness and death.
The latter is a result of the buildup of lactic acid, a by-product of anaerobic metabolism [without oxygen].
Carbon monoxide blocks the active binding site of hemoglobin [Hb], the protein that carries oxygen in red blood cells.
Another term, 'simple' asphyxia, is sometimes used when oxygen is displaced by another gas.
In some cases a coroner's report may list a significant medical or pathological condition such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease [COPD] as cause of death rather than asphyxia during a drowning, further frustrating those who are unfamiliar with the terminology.
Autoerotic or 'sexual asphyxia' by self-strangulation, drowning, choking, and a variety of other means is increasingly reported, especially by the media.