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Post mortem changes

During necropsy, a series of alterations are rapidly produced as a consequence of somatic death due to the natural organic biodegradation of cells and tissues.

The importance of knowing how to identify these alterations lies in the fact that they tend to mask or confuse the true alterations produced by the causative agent of the disease.

These alterations are called "cadaveric alterations" or "postmortem changes".

To make a gross presumptive diagnosis as accurate as possible, it is necessary to know how to differentiate the morphological changes “ante and post mortem” in the cadaver (organs, tissues or cells, alive or dead), therefore, it is necessary to know what happens after death in the cadaver.

All these postmortem alterations are passive morphological changes, not reactive, and induced by a joint biodegradative action of the organism itself and the action of the cadaveric flora and fauna on the cadaver’s organic matter. Vital changes, on the other hand, are always dynamic changes resulting from cellular or tissue response to an etiological agent.

According to their chronology, postmortem alterations are classified as follows:

Primary postmortem changes Secundary postmortem changes

Cadaveric dehydration Postmortem imbibition
Cadaveric cooling Pseudomelanosis
Rigor mortis Postmortem emphysema
Livor mortis - Postmortem rupture Postmortem rupture
Organic hypostatic Postmortem displacement
Postmortem autolysis Putrefaction
Destruction of the cadaver by exogenous factors Destruction of the cadaver by exogenous factors