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Dr. Fuentealba Introduction to Post-Mortem Changes


Study of disease inclucing fuctional, biochemical and structural (morphological) alterations, causes of disease, and sequence of events in disease


Postmortem examination of the body to determine the nature of pathological processes that contribute to death or disease


The removal and examination of tissue from the living body to establish a precise diagnosis


Abnormal body process with characteristic signs which begins at the molecular and cellular level and may effect all or part of the body


Cause of disease

Etiology Mnemonic


Genetic/Intrinsic Etiology

Gene variant that is the cause of disease

Acquired/Extrinsic Etiology

Environmental cause of disease


Mechanism of disease development from initial stimulus to ultimate expression in response of cell/tissue to the etiology

Molecular & Morphologic Changes

Biochemical and structural alterations induced in the cells and organs of the body

Clinical Manifestations

Functional consequences of the changes


Concise statement or conclusion concerning the nature, cause or name of a disease or a disease process

Clincal Diagnosis

Diagnosis based on case history, clinical signs and PE

Differential Diagnosis

List of diagnoses that could account for the evidence or lesions of the case

Different Diagnosis Mnemonic


Morphological Diagnosis

Diagnosis based on the predominant lesion(s) in the tissue(s)

Etiologic Diagnosis

More definitive diagnosis and names the specific cause of disease

Clinical Pathologic Diagnosis

Diagnosis based on changes observed in the chemistry of fluids and the hematology, structure and function of cells collected from the living patient


Prediction of how the disease will progress or resolve


Characteristic or indictive of a specific disease

Cellular Swelling

Early, sub-lethal manifestation of cell damage, characterized by increased cell size and volume

Fatty Changes

Early, sub-lethal cell damage characterized by intracytoplasmic intracytoplasmic vacuolation due to the presence of vacuoles of fat

Coagulation necrosis

Cellular or tissue death in a living organism characterized by preservation of tissue architecture and cellular outline; Most common manifestation of cell death

Liquefactive Necrosis

A type of necrosis characterized by complete destruction of the tissue

Caseous Necrosis

A variant of coagulation necrosis characterized by loss of tissue architecture and cellular detail

Dry Gangrenous Necrosis

Form of coagulation necrosis follow by dehydration of affected area and mummification

Moist/Wet Gangrenous Necrosis

Type of necrosis modified by the liquefactive action of saprophytic bacteria causing putrefaction

Gas Gangrenous Necrosis

Type of necrosis characterized by production of gas bubbles in the necrotic tissue by invading bacteria

Fat Necrosis

Type of necrosis affecting the body of fat stores


Individual cell death as a result of activation of a genetically programmed cell death pathway

Intrinsic Apoptosis

Activation of Caspase-9 then Caspases 3 & 6

Extrinsic Apoptosis

Activation of Caspase-8 then Caspases 3 & 6


Decrease in size of cells that have gained full development


Increase in the size of a tissue or organ due to an increase in cell size without an increase in the number of cells


Increase in organ size or tissue mass caused by an increase in the number of constituent cells


Lack of development of an organ or tissue


Incomplete development or underdevelopment of an organ/tissue


Reversible change in which one differentiated cell type is replace by another differentiated cell type


Abnormal organization of cells or disordered growth of cells


Brown pigment present in the epidermis and is responsible for the color of skin and hair


Accumulates in neurons, cardiac myocytes, thyroid epithelium, hepatocytes, with progressive increase with age and after chronic injury


Brown, amorphous, granular, iron-containing pigment formed as a result of lysis of erythrocytes

Bile Pigments

Yellow-brown or brown-green pigment


Deposition of air pollutants such as coal dust, carbon particles into the lungs and local LN


Deposition of silica dust in the lungs


Deposition of asbestos into lung producing chronic lung injury and associates with neoplasm

Rigor mortis

Contraction of muscles after death

Algor mortis

Gradual cooling of a cadaver to environmental temperature

Livor mortis

Gravitational pooling of blood to the down side of the body

Postmortem clotting

Clotting in the heart and vessels

Hemoglobin imbibition

Red staining of tissues due to postmortem lysis of RBCs with resulting release of hemoglobin

Bile imbibition

Leakage of bile from the gall bladder and major bile ducts which stains adjacent tisses green to yellow


Describes an artifactual black discoloration of tissues (similar in appearance to melanosis)


Depends on body temperature before death, size of body, fat stores, hair covering, environmental temperature, etc


The enzymatic decomposition of organic materil with production of foul-smelling compounds

Postmortem emphysema

Distension of organs due to accumulation of gas

Postmortem rupture and organ displacement

Due to postmortem emphysema


Shrunken and densely basophilic nuclei with irregularities in the nuclear membrane


The nuclear membrane is ruptured and the nucleus is fragmented


Complete dissolution of the nucleus with fading or loss of chromatin

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