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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

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Changes After Death

Dr. Raid Jastania

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Changes After Death

  • Decomposition

  • Why do we need to know:

    • Not to misinterpret these changes

    • Help to determine time (place) of death

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Early Changes

  • No breathing, no circulation

  • Fall in blood pressure

  • Metabolism gradually stops

  • Loss of neoronal activity

    • No reflexes, no corneal reflex, fixed dilated pupils, eye looses the tension

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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

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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

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Rigor Mortis

  • What is Rigor mortis like if death occurs after

    • exercise,

    • electric shock,

    • in infant,

    • in elderly

    • In summer

    • In winter

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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

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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

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Cadaveric Rigidity

  • Forensic rarity

  • Stiffness of muscle occurring immediately at time of death

    • Finding items in hands

    • ?emotional/physical stress at death

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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

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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!

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Cooling of the body after Death

  • Physical property

  • Assumptions:

    • Temperature was 37 at the time of death

    • Thermally static environment

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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

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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

    • Entomologist

    • Anthropologist

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  • Air

  • Dry, wet

  • Water

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  • The most common route of decomposition

  • Liquifaction of the soft tissue over time

  • The warmer the temperature, the earlier the process

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  • 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

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  • Increase internal pressure, protrusion of tongue, eyes,

  • Bloody fluids

  • Within a week: body cavity will burst

  • Tissue liquify

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  • Dry condition, eg. Dessert

  • Drying and leathery body

  • Part or whole body

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • Living: coma, amnesia, infancy, mental defect

  • Decomposed body

  • Following injury

  • Mass disasters

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Height, weight

Hair color, length

Beard, moustache

Skin pigmentation

Ethnic background

Eye color

Clothing, jewellery

Tatoo, surgical scars

Injuries, deformities



Ossification center

General Morphologic Features

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  • Chance of identical finger print is: 1 in 64 million

  • Identical twins

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  • Identification of person

  • Age

  • Bite marks

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Identification of origin of tissue

  • Why:

    • Blood, semen, saliva..

    • Come from suspect for victem

    • Match of human remains

    • Resolve paternity/maternity

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Identification of origin of tissue

  • DNA profiling:

    • Matching

    • Paternity, maternity

    • Sampling:

      • Nucleated cells: wbc, hair root bulb cells, sperms, buccal smear..

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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