A new case study published in Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology, describes the unusual incident of a 76-year-old woman who bled to death after a rooster pecked at her leg. This tragedy has prompted doctors to highlight an extremely common blood vessel condition that often comes with age.
The unfortunate attack occurred on a rural property in South Australia, as the older woman was collecting eggs in her chicken coop. A few aggressive pecks from the resident rooster on her leg caused her to hemorrhage and collapse.
The autopsy exposed two puncture wounds in her lower left leg, one of which was exactly on a varicose vein. These veins have weakened or damaged blood vessels with valves that do not function properly, so the blood struggles to effectively flow back to the heart.
According to the case study, as soon as the woman realized she was bleeding, she attempted to get her husband’s attention by going towards him. She collapsed on the driveway, leaving a trail of blood back to the house but died before help arrived. The deceased woman had a medical history of being overweight, having high blood pressure and diabetes. Her varicose veins had been operated on earlier, but the persistent condition was severe enough that she had trouble walking.
Pathologist Roger Byard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “There are a couple of messages, one is never trust a rooster … the second one is if you’ve got varicose veins, get something done about it”.
Varicose ruptures are a long-lasting clinical condition that is typically benign. However, svere cases can lead to serious consequences if left untreated. When a varicose vein gets ruptured, it can trigger arterial bleeding and a dangerous medical emergency, which can prove fatal.
Death from haemorrhage caused by a varicose rupture is uncommon with a study finding just 66 cases described in reports between 1973 and 2012. But there are characteristics like old age, social isolation, and underlying medical conditions such as liver cirrhosis or ischemic heart disease, make some people more vulnerable. Smaller varicose veins generally aren’t an issue, but for severe conditions, there are numerous treatment options, some of which are less invasive than others.
Pathologists explain in the clinical study, “The fragility of the skin and underlying soft tissues in older individuals means that varicose veins are vulnerable to injury from relatively minor trauma. This has, on occasion, resulted in significant haemorrhage.”
The study authors also describe a similar case, shared by a fellow doctor, where a house cat scratched a person’s lower leg, producing an uncontrollable and eventually fatal bleed.
In this case, the rooster pierced an equally unfortunate spot.
“This case demonstrates that even relatively small domestic animals may be able to inflict lethal injuries in individuals if there are specific vascular vulnerabilities present,” the case study highlighted.