External and Internal Examinations in an Autopsy

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An autopsy is an examination carried out on a dead body to determine the cause of death and other factors such as time of death (Knudsen, Thomsen, Ampanozi, & Thali, 2014). Two different types of examinations are carried out in an autopsy, internal and external examinations (Knudsen et al., 2014). As suggested by the name an external examination involves examining the exterior part of the body and is usually carried out before the internal examination. The following paper discusses the internal and external examinations in details and identifies their differences.

The external examination begins at the scene of the death and proceeds in the autopsy room. External examinations can be useful in guiding the pathologist in what to look for in the internal examination particularly if there are external wounds or signs of trauma such as tears. An internal examination involves examining the internal body organs for causes of death and is carried out at the pathologist’s room (Lloyd & Suvarna, 2016).

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An external examination involves examining the body for any physical signs of trauma and injuries (Lloyd & Suvarna, 2016). Clothing is also assessed for signs of fibers or excreted body fluids while the body is still at the death scene. Once the body is in the pathological examination room, it is measured and weighed (Lloyd & Suvarna, 2016). Details such as the deceased’s hair length and color, sex, eye color, age, and ethnicity are noted. The clothes are further assessed for blood stains, body fluids, rips and tears and fibers. The pathologist then evaluates the lividity and rigor mortis of the body that are often used to determine the time of death and also to find out if the body had been moved before the post mortem. If need be x-rays are taken.

The steps involved in carrying out an internal examination are; making a Y-shaped incision on the chest, removal of organs, examination of contents of the stomach, sample collection, brain and head examination and making conclusions (Knudsen et al., 2014).

At the beginning of an internal examination, the pathologist makes a Y-shaped incision running from either shoulder to the sternums lower end and then downwards through the abdomen all the way to the pubis. In women, the Y incision is made in such a way that in does not go over the breasts but rather in a film, curves around the breasts (Knudsen et al., 2014). The organs are then removed and weighed. Organs are weighed since certain illnesses may alter the weight of the organs. The organs may be removed as one combined entity known as Rokitansky technique, or they may be withdrawn separately as stipulated by the Virchow technique (Knudsen et al., 2014). The former has been reported to be faster but the method to be used if often determined by the trauma on the body.

The abdomen contents are then examined. Stomach contents such as the level of digestion of a meal can be used to determine the time and cause of death (Knudsen et al., 2014). Further samples are taken from liver tissue, ocular fluid, bile, urine and liver tissue since some poisons may show in some parts of the body and not show in others. The pathologist assesses the head next by making a triangular shaped incision on the head and begins by examining the brain while it’s still in position (Knudsen et al., 2014). Here the pathologist examines for signs of head injuries; tissue samples are also taken for further assessment of medical conditions. Once all the above procedures are completed the pathologist makes a report on their finding to the police.

The internal and external examination autopsies are very different. The external examination autopsy deals with assessing the physical attributes of the body that can be seen externally while the internal examination is more detailed in assessing the internal body organs. Other differences include that an external examination is conducted at the death scene as well as at the pathologist’s room while the internal examination is only carried out at the pathologist’s room.

These different processes shed light on the complexity of the human body that can be seen by the numerous different processes and strict procedures that are required to be followed for an autopsy. The external examination teaches one how the time of death can be determined through assessing the lividity and rigor mortis of the body while the level of digestion of meals can be used to establish the time of death in an internal examination.

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