Elvis Presley: King of Rock & Roll's cause of death analysed as autopsy results set to be unveiled in 2027

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Experts weigh in on Elvis Presley’s cause of death

Elvis Presley's death was likely caused by a combination of factors stemming from his unhealthy lifestyle, chronic drug abuse, and underlying health conditions, according to the many experts who have entered into speculation. The King of Rock & Roll died unexpectedly on August 16, 1977, and the exact cause of death has been a source of debate for decades since.

While some theories point to a heart attack brought on by straining on the toilet due to chronic constipation, others attribute it to a drug overdose. However, the sealed autopsy report adds to the mystery surrounding his passing.

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Elvis had an unhealthy lifestyle that included taking prescription medications and eating large quantities of unhealthy meals. In the months leading up to his death, his weight had increased dramatically and his health was gradually deteriorating. Possible causes include complications from persistent constipation made worse by his drug usage. The stress of using the toilet might have caused Valsalva's manoeuvre, which is lethal and would have stopped his heart.

Some claimed he died of a heart attack while struggling to use the bathroom, while others blamed his early death at the age of 42 on years of drug usage. But what contributed to the mystery surrounding his death was his family's decision to quickly seal his autopsy report, leaving people wondering what truly transpired.

Elvis PresleyElvis Presley
Elvis Presley | Getty Images

Other experts, however, have a different story to tell. According to newspaper, The Mirror, they cite a history of numerous health conditions that plagued Elvis for years before his death. These included severe respiratory distress, jaundice, elevated blood pressure, and megacolon, among other things.

One popular idea connects these ailments to a catastrophic head injury Elvis sustained in 1967, which resulted in an autoimmune disorder. This disorder could have caused a chain reaction to health problems that resulted in his death.

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Dan Warlick, chief investigator for the Tennessee Office of the State Chief Medical Examiner, attended the autopsy and fuelled the popular theory that Elvis died while straining to go to the loo.

He once said: "Presley's chronic constipation - the result of years of prescription drug abuse and high-fat, high-cholesterol gorging - brought on what's known as Valsalva's manoeuvre. Put simply, the strain of attempting to defecate compressed the singer's abdominal aorta, shutting down his heart."

Elvis Presley with his girlfriend Ginger Alden in March of 1977 in Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)Elvis Presley with his girlfriend Ginger Alden in March of 1977 in Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Elvis Presley with his girlfriend Ginger Alden in March of 1977 in Hawaii. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) | Getty

Others claimed he had died from a drug overdose, but when the investigation was reopened in 1994, coroner Joseph Davis disagreed. He explained: "The position of Elvis Presley's body was such that he was about to sit down on the commode when the seizure occurred. He pitched forward onto the carpet, his rear in the air, and was dead by the time he hit the floor.

"If it had been a drug overdose, (Elvis) would have slipped into an increasing state of slumber. He would have pulled up his pyjama bottoms and crawled to the door to seek help. It takes hours to die from drugs."

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Since then, certain experts who had access to the classified report have shared their interpretations - one suggesting that a prior injury may have contributed to his demise. Elvis, who had a nurse available at all times, went through 1975 without bathing, resulting in sores on his body. He grappled with persistent constipation, leading to a build-up of stool in his bowel for four months.

Moreover, the singer was reliant on a combination of medications, having been prescribed nearly 9,000 pills, vials, and injections in the seven months leading up to his death. His girlfriend, Ginger Alden, discovered his body in a startling position: pyjama bottoms around his ankles, bent forward as if he had fallen while seated on the toilet.

The autopsy results for Elvis Presley's death are set to be unveiled in 2027, but the most significant clue has come from California physician Forest Tennant. Tennant believes that Elvis' full-body deterioration began 10 years earlier, with symptoms such as vertigo, back pain, insomnia, eye infections, and headaches. He also found him suffering from jaundice, severe respiratory distress, swelling of his face, distended abdomen, constipation, a gastric, bleeding ulcer, and hepatitis. In 1975, Elvis was hospitalised again with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a condition called megacolon, where the large intestine becomes distended and can allow toxins to flood the body. He had at least four near-death overdoses that left him unconscious and in need of resuscitation. He also suffered from emphysema, despite never smoking. Forest believes that the causes of these diseases in his stomach, liver, lungs, heart, spine, eyes, and bowel were all stemming from a serious head injury he sustained in 1967 that triggered a progressive autoimmune inflammatory disorder. He believes that when Elvis tripped over a television cord in a Hollywood hotel room and knocked himself out on the bathtub, brain tissue dislodged and seeped into his blood circulation, triggering hypogammaglobulinemia, a disorder of the body's immune system. Auto-immune conditions are now known to cause most of the symptoms Elvis displayed, including chronic pain, irrational behavior, obesity, and enlarged and diseased organs like hearts and bowels. Garry Rodgers, a retired homicide detective and forensic coroner, would have attributed Elvis's death to a heart attack caused by heart disease and drug use caused by an autoimmune disease, which was sparked by a brain injury.

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