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Changes After Death

Dr. Raid Jastania


Changes After Death
• Decomposition
• Why do we need to know:
– Not to misinterpret these changes
– Help to determine time (place) of death
Early Changes
• No breathing, no circulation
• Fall in blood pressure
• Metabolism gradually stops
• Loss of neuronal activity
– No reflexes, no corneal reflex, fixed dilated
pupils, eye looses the tension
Early Changes
• Primary Flaccidity: complete loss of tone
• Muscle may be still reactive for hours (focal
twitching)
• Pale skin and conjunctiva
• Face may remain blue/red
• ?? Hair continues to grow
• Loss of sphincter action: pass urine, semen,
regurgitation of food
Rigor Mortis
• Lack of oxygen – no energy – no ATP –
glycolysis – lactic acid – acidic cytoplasm – actin
and myocin bind
• “Stiff Muscle”
• Factors affects Rigor Mortis:
– Level of glycogen
– Level of lactic acid
– Body built
– Temperature, weather
Rigor Mortis
• What is Rigor mortis like if death occurs
after
– exercise,
– electric shock,
– in infant,
– in elderly
– In summer
– In winter
Rigor Mortis
• Starts in small muscle around eyes and mouth,
jaw, fingers,
• Then spreads from head to legs
• Estimated time of death:
– In face: 1-4 hours
– Limbs: 4-6 hours
– Increase in strength for the next 6-12 hours
– Decomposition starts
– Secondary flaccidity from 24-50 hours
Rigor Mortis
• Body feels warm & Flaccid: <3 hours
• Body feels warm & Stiff: 3-8 hours
• Body feels cold & stiff: 8-36 hours
• Body feels cold & flaccid: > 36 hours
Cadaveric Rigidity
• Forensic rarity
• Stiffness of muscle occurring immediately
at time of death
– Finding items in hands
– ?emotional/physical stress at death
Post Mortem Hypostasis
(Lividity)
• No circulation, relaxation of blood vessels
• Blood moves to dependent area
• Positioning of body: supine, prone, on side,
on head, hanging
• Pink-blue color of the dependent area
• May not be apparent in infants, elderly,
anemic
• Difficult to see in dark skin, jaundice
Post Mortem Hypostasis
(Lividity)
• Blanching:
– Around face (not asphyxia)
• Color:
– Pink – deep pink – blue – purple
– Cheery pink: in carbon monoxide poisoning
– Dark red: in cyanide poisoning
– In hypothermia: pink around large joints
• Movement of body and change in lividity!
Cooling of the body after Death
• Physical property
• Assumptions:
– Temperature was 37 at the time of death
– Thermally static environment
Cooling of the body after Death
• Variables:
– Mass of body
– Surface area
– Body temperature at death
– Site of reading
– Posture
– Clothing
– Environment temperature
– Winds, humidity, rain
Estimation of the time of Death
• Body temperature
– Rectal, ears, nose, liver
– Henssge’s Nomogram
• Body temperature
• Ambient temperature
• Body weight
• Other methods
– Gastric contents
Decomposition
• Air
• Dry, wet
• Water
Putrefaction
• The most common route of decomposition
• Liquifaction of the soft tissue over time
• The warmer the temperature, the earlier the
process
Putrefaction
• Visible 3-4 days
• Green discoloration in the right iliac fossa
• Marbling of skin: linear branching ptterns
of brown discoloration of skin
• Blistering, skin sloughs off
• Gas formation, swelling of body: face,
abdomen, breast, genitalia
Putrefaction
• Increase internal pressure, protrusion of
tongue, eyes,
• Bloody fluids
• Within a week: body cavity will burst
• Tissue liquify
Mummification
• Dry condition, eg. Dessert
• Drying and leathery body
• Part or whole body
Adipocere
• Wet condition, water
• Chemical change of body fat to waxy
compound material
• Pale, greasy semi fluid material, unpleasant
smell
• Firm waxy compound material: takes weeks
to months to form
Skeletalization
• More quickly to occur on the surface than in
burried body
• Soft tissue will be absent by 2 years
• Tendon, ligaments, hair nails may remain
• By 5 years bone disarticulate
Identification
• Living: coma, amnesia, infancy, mental
defect
• Decomposed body
• Following injury
• Mass disasters
General Morphologic Features
• Appearance • Eye color
• Height, weight • Clothing, jewellery
• Hair color, length • Tatoo, surgical scars
• Beard, moustache • Injuries, deformities
• Skin pigmentation • Age:
• Ethnic background – Estimation
– Ossification center
Fingerprint
• Chance of identical finger print is: 1 in 64
million
• Identical twins

Teeth
• Identification of person
• Age
• Bite marks
Identification of origin of tissue
• Why:
– Blood, semen, saliva..
– Come from suspect for victem
– Match of human remains
– Resolve paternity/maternity
Identification of origin of tissue
• DNA profiling:
– Matching
– Paternity, maternity
– Sampling:
• Nucleated cells: wbc, hair root bulb cells, sperms,
buccal smear..
Identification of origin of tissue
• Human Remains
– Are they human
– Is it one or more bodies
– Sex: skull, pelvis
– Age
• Up to 20-25 years, age can be estimated within
couple of years
• >25 years more difficult to estimate