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What Happens within the Body After Death?

What Happens within the Body After Death?

After death, the human body undergoes various physical changes resulting from cellular dysfunction and tissue decomposition.

Death is an uncomfortable and sensitive subject for most individuals. Generally, there’s a latent concern about the various stages that the body goes through after we die. On this sense, some people wonder what physically happens within the body hours after death.

The irreversible cessation of significant functions that allow life is a dynamic phenomenon influenced by several aspects. Studies affirm that after death a series of structural, physical, and chemical changes often called cadaveric phenomena are triggered within the body.

Thus, the dying process occurs in several phases. Each of those physical modifications occurs over a certain time frame and is helpful for forensic and legal medicine.

The state of death

Most individuals consider the state of death because the absence of a pulse and cessation of respiration. Nevertheless, the death of the body is a posh process that extends beyond circulatory and pulmonary collapse, which in some cases may even be reversible by resuscitation.

Currently, electrocardiographic studies of deceased patients suggest that the human brain continues to operate for as much as 10 minutes after death. On this sense, the body may remain, not directly, aware of impending death.

Thus, healthcare professionals use quite a lot of criteria to declare an individual dead. These include an absence of response to reflexes and absence of pupillary contraction to light, in addition to the irreversible cessation of pulse and respiration.

What are the modifications that the body undergoes after death?

In the intervening time life is extinguished, the human body undergoes several modifications resulting from the biochemical processes of the corpse and exposure to the encompassing environment. On this sense, it’s possible to categorise these physical alterations into early and late changes.

Although traditionally the heartbeat is taken into account the element that determines death, the reality is that different parameters should be certified at that moment for the declaration of death.

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Early changes

Early changes are those who occur within the body 24 hours after death. These include the next.
As the guts stops pumping blood, the skin tends to change into pale throughout the first jiffy of death. Then, the blood will begin to be distributed by gravity to the parts of the body closest to the bottom, forming the lividities or livor mortis. These are nothing greater than purplish spots within the declining areas.

These lesions are often very useful in determining the position of the body at death. They may be modified by moving the body throughout the first 12 hours. After 24 hours of death, no recent ones will form.


A characteristic sign of death is the lack of body temperature or algor mortis. This cadaveric cooling occurs in the primary 24 hours after death, until the corpse acquires the temperature of the encompassing air.

At death, heat loss occurs at a rate of 1 degree Celsius per hour, depending on atmospheric conditions. Chilling is generally most evident early on the face and hands, and afterward the neck and armpits. Obese people are likely to cool more slowly.


In the primary hour after death, all the sleek and striated musculature of the body begins to loosen up in a phase often called primary flaccidity. Consequently, the joints of the body change into flexible, the eyelids lose their tone and the jaw tends to open.

Later, a state of stiffening and petrifaction of the muscles often called rigor mortis will set in. This begins within the smaller muscles of the face and descends to the remaining of the body, promoting discrete retraction of the body. It reaches its maximum intensity between 12 and 15 hours after death.


This phenomenon results from the continual and passive exposure of body fluids to the environment. Dehydration is generally manifested by parchmenting of the skin, drying of the mucous membranes and genitalia, and sinking of the eyeballs.

Similarly, an accentuation of bony prominences within the chest, thorax, and hips is common. As well as, abrupt and generalized weight reduction is seen in young children.

Late changes

Late changes within the body occur after the primary 24 to 36 hours after death. They’re on account of the natural evolution of the corpse and involve the progressive destruction of organs and tissues. On this sense, we will find the next phenomena.

Autolysis or autodigestion

Autodigestion begins when the guts stops beating and the tissues are deprived of oxygen. Nevertheless, physical changes begin to change into evident several hours later. Research affirms that this stage is the results of the motion of the body’s own enzymes on cell membranes.

Similarly, the phenomenon often begins with greater intensity within the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands, and stomach. As well as, the brain is susceptible to autolysis on account of its high water content.

Autolysis is characterised by the destruction of cell membranes.

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The cadaveric ecosystem consists of bacteria living in and on the body’s surface. The intestinal microbiota, especially that of the cecum, is the major source of germs within the human body. Nevertheless, while the person is alive, most organs are devoid of microbes.

On this sense, shortly after death the immune system is shut down and bacteria can spread freely to all tissues. This fact conditions the onset of putrefaction consequently of the fermentative motion of bacterial enzymes on the cells.

In the primary 24 to 48 hours, greenish and blackish stains appear across the abdomen on account of the motion of anaerobic bacteria on the blood vessels. Later, the gas produced by the microbial motion causes distension of the abdomen, protrusion of the eyes, and protrusion of the tongue.

This provides solution to the ultimate phase of decomposition often called liquefaction. On this phase, the tissues are destroyed and expelled in the shape of a brown, putrefying liquid. Similarly, the body progressively decreases in volume and is then destroyed by the motion of insects and other animals.

A fancy process that begins with the cessation of significant functions

Death is a posh state that starts with the irreversible collapse of significant functions and the cessation of brain capacities. After death, the human body undergoes a series of physical and biochemical changes and modifications that result in the decomposition of all organs and tissues.

Normally, these alterations occur constantly in all cadavers and are influenced by the reason behind death and environmental variations. Likewise, they’re the major object of study of forensic and legal medicine.

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