Medical Terms Frequently found in the Autopsies

Autolysis: Occurs after death when digestive juices, which in life dissolve only food, begin to digest the gastrointestinal tract.  When a few hours of death, these stomach acids will gnaw through the stomach or esophagus which they have patiently and obediently served through every moment of life … (Maples, pg. 38)

Distal: Located further from the mid line of, or point of attachment to the trunk of the body, as in "the foot is distal to the knee."  Opposite of proximal.

Disarticulated: Disarticulated body parts are those which have fallen off the body as a result of the decomposition of the connective tissue in the joints.

Evulsion: Evulsion occurs when a portion of a body is ripped off with a force driven in one direction.  Evulsion is contrasted with the pattern of injuries that results from the explosion of a bomb, which is ripping, shredding and tearing.—Suffolk County Medical Examiner Charles Wetli, quoted in The Washington Times, July 20, 1996, pg. A4.

Necropsy: A postmortem examination.

Perimortem: Occurring at the time of death.

Postmortem: Occurring after death.

Proximal: Located closer to the mid line of, or point of attachment to the body; as in the "the elbow is proximal to the finger."  Opposite of distal.

Putrefaction: Occurs as a result of bacterial activity throughout the body.  Putrefaction is a much greater component of the decomposition process than autolysis, and it sweeps through the body like a silent fire … (Maples, pg. 38)

See also the charts of bones in front and back views.

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