Exam 4 Lecture Notes - Postmortem Change- Physical change Flashcards Preview

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Have the greatest influence on the embalming technique in case analysis. In making a pre-embalming analysis of the deceased individual, the embalmer examines the effect of four factors of concerns.

Postmortem Changes


  1. General body condition.
  2. Effects of disease on the body.
  3. Effects of drug therapy on the body.
  4. All postmortem chemical and physical changes.

Four Factors of Concerns for Postmortem Changes


  1. Autolysis
  2. Postmortem caloricity 
  3. Algor Mortis
  4. Postmortem Blood changes
  5. Change in tissue pH
  6. Rigor Mortis
  7. Imbibition
  8. Dehydration
  9. General Decomposition 

Postmortem changes listed in the general order of their appearance.


  • Hypostasis
  • Increase in the viscosity of blood
  • Hemolysis
  • Coagulation (clotting)

Potmortem Blood Changes (In order of appearance)


Brought about by the:

  1. Stoppage of blood circulation
  2. Gravitation of blood to the dependent parts of the body.
  3. Environmental surface evaporation 

Postmortem Physical Changes


  • Algor Mortis
  • Hypostasis 
  • Livor Mortis
  • Dehydration
  • Increase in blood viscosity

List of postmortem physical changes


The postmortem cooling of the body to the surrounding temperature.

Algor Mortis


Can be antemortem or postmortem- The settling of blood and/or other fluids to dependent portions of the body.

  • Generally, after death, majority of blood is found in the veins.
  • The thinner the blood, the faster this occurs.
  • Medications containing blood thinners maximizes this.
  • Persons who die from conditions in which blood is thickened makes this a longer, more extended process. (example: febrile disease)



The postmortem, Intravascular, red-blue discoloration resulting from the hypostasis of blood.

  • First stage is blue pink
  • Last stage is purple
  • Classified as intravascular blood discoloration 
  • Can be removed with arterial injection and venous drainage.

Livor Mortis (Cadaveric lividity, postmortem lividity)


Loss of moisture from body tissue which may occur antemortem and/or postmortem.

Dehydration (desiccation)


Has three causes:

  1. Imbibition 
  2. Gravitation 
  3. Agglutination of formed elements

Increase in the viscosity of blood


The internal organs cool much slower than the surface tissue of the body.

  • For this reason, putrefactive and autolytic decomposition may begin early in the visceral organs.
  • This is due to insulation 

Algor Mortis: Note


  • Corpulence
  • Age

Intrinsic Factors: Algor Mortis


It takes longer for an obese person to cool to surrounding temperature.

Corpulence (As an intrinsic factor of algor mortis)


The very old and very young will cool faster and go into this much faster than healthy young adults.

Age (As an intrinsic factor of algor mortis)


  • Amount of clothing covering the body.
  • Temperature and humidity of the environment.
  • Temperature of the patient at death.
  • Cause and manner of death.

Extrinsic Factors of Algor Mortis


Especially bed covering will act as insulation after death. The greater the amount of covering/clothing, the slower the loss of heat causing a slower onset of algor mortis. Covering/clothing will act as insulation after death.

Amount of Clothing Covering the Body (Extrinsic factor: Algor Mortis)


Surrounding the body at death. Air currents and low humidity increase the rate of surface evaporation and speed of heat loss (increase the onset of algor mortis). High humidity and static air decrease surface evaporation and retard heat loss (decrease onset of algor mortis).

Temperature and humidity of the environment. (Extrinsic factor: algor mortis)


Air currents and low humidity ______ the onset of algor mortis.



High humidity and static air ______ the onset of algor mortis.



  • Normal body temperature = 98.6oF
  • Usually a slight temperature raise after death (postmortem caloricity).
  • First few hours after death, body cools faster
  • Cooling slows as the body reaches that of the environment.
  • This cooling will only occur after postmortem caloricity.

Temperature of the patient at death (extrinsic factor: algor mortis)


Most causes of death have some influence on the rate of algor mortis. The rate of cooling will be slower in cases of sudden death, largely because of the more normal nutrition and metabolic rate at the time of death.

Cause and manner of death (extrinsic factor: algor mortis).


Diseases which increase the antemortem metabolic rate tend to ___1____ the rate of algor mortis. Conversely, exhausting or emaciating diseases will ____2____ the rate of algor mortis.

  1. Decrease
  2. Accelerate


The settling of blood into the dependent tissues will cause the smaller vessels and capillaries to expand, thus allowing arterial fluid solution to enter these vessels with greater ease.

Positive aspect for Hypostasis for embalming


  • Febrile disease
  • Diarrhea
  • Emesis (vomiting)

Antemortem dehydration, agonal dehydration


Postmortem physical change occuring:

  • Postmortem interval- death to embalming
  • Post embalming- dehydration after embalming

Postmortem Dehydration


The drying of the body or tissue as a result of the removal of moisture through the skin and membranes to the surrounding air as a natural process.

  • Will retard decomposition because it migrates bacterial cell metabolism.

Postmortem Dehydration


  1. Surface Evaporation
  2. Imbibition
  3. Gravitation of Serum

3 Causes of Postmortem Dehydration Occuring Prior to Embalming


Two factors: humid air and dry air will have a direct influence on or the lack of this as it affects the surface of the skin and tissue. In the dead body, the moisture loss will continue through the unprotected skin and surface membranes until the moisture content of the tissues is no greater than the surrounding air. When the air is naturally dry, as in desert areas, or artificially dried, as in a masuoleum crypt, a rapid and complete mummification will occur.

Surface Evaporation


The most rapid ___________ occurs through tiny pores and very thin mucous membranes of the mouth, eyelids, nostrils, respiratory tract, surface tissue, and fingertips.

Postmortem Moisture Loss

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