Putrefaction

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Stages of death

Pallor mortis
Algor mortis
Rigor mortis
Livor mortis
Putrefaction
Decomposition
Skeletonization

 
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Not to be confused with Petrifaction.
Stages of death

Pallor mortis
Algor mortis
Rigor mortis
Livor mortis
Putrefaction
Decomposition
Skeletonization

Putrefaction is one of seven stages in the decomposition of the body of a dead animal or human. It can be viewed, in broad terms, as the decomposition of proteins in a process that results in the eventual breakdown of cohesion between tissues and the liquefaction of most organs. It is caused due to bacterial or fungal decomposition of organic matter and results in production of obnoxious odors.[1]

Description[edit]

In terms of thermodynamics, all organic tissue is a stored source of chemical energy and when not maintained by the constant biochemical efforts of the living organism it will break down into simpler products. The breakdown of proteins in a decomposing carcass is a spontaneous process but one that is accelerated as the anaerobic microorganisms, already present in the animal's digestive tract when it was alive, consume and digest the proteins that comprise the creature's cells. As cells and their proteins are digested, the tissues of the body are left in a weakened state. Proteins are broken down into smaller components and these are excreted by the bacteria. The excreted components, which include gases and amines such as putrescine and cadaverine, carry the putrid odor associated with a decomposing body. The gases are initially constrained within the body cavities but diffuse through adjacent tissues and into the circulatory system. Once in the blood vessels, the gases can then spread to other parts of the body. The result is visible bloating of the torso and then limbs. The increased internal pressure due to the rising volume of gas also helps to weaken and separate tissues. At some point, some part of the body will rupture, releasing the gas. As the bacteria consume all available proteins, the process of decomposition progresses into the next stage: skeletonization.

The term decomposition is a generalized expression covering the overall process from the death of the individual until skeletonization of the body. Putrefaction is only one stage of that process. Material that is subject to putrefaction is called putrescible. It is delayed in poisoning due to carbolic acid, ZnCl, As, Antimony and nux vomica (strychnine).

Approximate timeline[edit]

Rate of putrefaction is maximum in air, water, soil, and earth. First external sign of putrefaction in a body lying in air is usually greenish discoloration of the skin over the region of caecum which appears in 12-24 hours. And the first internal sign is usually a greenish discoloration on undersurface of liver. The exact rate of putrefaction is dependent upon many factors such as weather, exposure and location. Thus, refrigeration at a morgue or funeral home can retard the process, allowing for burial in three days or so following death without embalming. The rate increases dramatically in tropical climates.

Order of putrefaction in vitrous organs[edit]

Larynx and trachea > stomach, intestine > liver > lung > brain, heart > kidney > bladder, uterus > skin, muscles, tendons > bones.

Factors affecting[edit]

Various factors affect the rate of putrefaction.[2][3]

Exogenous[edit]

Endogenous[edit]

Delayed putrefaction[edit]

Certain substances delay putrefaction. Some of them are:

Research[edit]

The University of Tennessee's Forensic Anthropology Facility is a body farm established in 1981 to study human putrefaction. Several others have been built in other locations since that time.

Other uses[edit]

Putrefaction, the eighth alchemical key of Basil Valentine, 1678, Chemical Heritage Foundation

In alchemy, putrefaction is the same as fermentation, whereby a substance is allowed to rot or decompose undisturbed. In some cases, the commencement of the process is facilitated with a small sample of the desired material to act as a "seed".[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "putrefaction". Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary. TheFreeDictionary. Retrieved 31 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Vij (1 January 2008). Textbook Of Forensic Medicine And Toxicology: Principles And Practice. Elsevier India. pp. 142–4. ISBN 978-81-312-1129-8. 
  3. ^ Gautam Biswas (2012). Review of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology. JP Medical Ltd. ISBN 978-93-5025-896-5. 
  4. ^ a b Sharma (1 January 2007). Concise Textbook Of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology. Elsevier India. p. 49. ISBN 978-81-312-1145-8. 

External links[edit]