Autopsy Care

Learn what care is required for the Autopsy procedure. Find out what you need to do prior to the procedure, how long it will take, if you will be required to stay in the hospital and what the postoperative care is.


Autopsy Details

What to Expect Prior to Procedure

Before an autopsy, there must be positive identification of the body and an autopsy permit signed by the legal next-of-kin. The body is transported to the morgue and held in a refrigeration unit until the autopsy.

Description of the Procedure

Autopsies follow this general procedure:

  • External examination-The body is measured, and any abnormality of the body surface is recorded.
  • Opening the body:
    • A Y-shaped cut is made in the skin starting at the front of each shoulder, extending around the navel, and down to the pubic bone. The skin, muscle, and soft tissues are then separated from the chest wall.
    • Each side of the rib cage is cut with an electric saw to provide access to the heart and lungs.
    • The abdominal muscle is removed to expose the abdominal organs.

  • Organ removal-Using special techniques, the organs are cut and removed from the body in one block. All organs (heart, lungs, liver, intestines, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, spleen, and pelvic organs) as well as the major arteries are individually examined. They are weighed, washed, and dissected as necessary. Some tissue samples may be removed for further lab examination.
  • Brain removal-A deep cut is made into the scalp. The incision runs from behind one ear, over the crown of the head, to behind the other ear. Skin and soft tissues are peeled down across the face in the front, and down to the nape of the neck in the back. An electric saw is used to cut through the skull. The brain is lifted out and placed in a preserving solution for two weeks. This helps to preserve the brain, and makes it firmer and easier to handle.

Once the autopsy is complete, the body is sewn back together. Procedures vary regarding organ replacement; dissected organs may be returned to the body or incinerated. If the organs are not returned to the body, the mortician will put filler in the body cavity to retain the body's shape.

Immediately After Procedure

Tissue samples are sent to a lab for analysis. Results are available within a few weeks, and a final autopsy report is usually completed in 30 to 60 days.

How Long Will It Take?

The autopsy typically takes 2-4 hours, depending on the reason and level of complexity.


Learn what Autopsy is
What Is
Learn what the procedure is. Find out how it is performed.
Reasons For Autopsy
Reasons For
Find out why and when this procedure should be done.
Autopsy Complications
Learn about possible complications and what might increase the risk of them.
Autopsy Details
What to Expect
Find out how long it will take, what they will be doing and what to expect afterwards.
Autopsy Results
What are the next steps and other possible tests needed after you have received the results.
When to Contact Doctor about Autopsy
Call Your Doctor
What to look out for and when to call your doctor after a procedure has been done.

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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright ©2014 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved. Source: EBSCO