Autopsies not only reveal secrets about the dead, but also help improve the lives that are still breathing. Some of the medical procedures and techniques we use today have benefitted from the results of various autopsies. In this article, you will learn more about the procedure, as well as interesting facts and trivia about the human body.
During the early 1970s, autopsies helped educate doctors on the side effects and outcomes related to certain drugs and medical techniques. For example, autopsies were performed on patients that took the anticancer drug called Adriamycin. The results highlighted advanced atrophy of the heart muscle, which led to the restriction of the drug’s use. Autopsies also played a significant role in improving heart transplants, new heart valves, and knee joint prosthetics.
When the respected ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky died, doctors cut open and examined his feet to see if the bones were different than other men. There was a theory that his bone structure played a role in his ability to make impressive leaps into the air, which added to the reputation of the dancer. However, the autopsy did not reveal anything unusual that could be said for his leaping capacity.
There are two types of autopsies ”“ medical and forensic. Medical autopsies are usually performed by doctors while pathologists or medical examiners are responsible for forensic autopsies. A forensic autopsy is usually carried out in regards to legal matters and the authorities need to know if a death was from natural causes, by accident, a homicide or suicide.
During a modern autopsy, the face is not visible for the majority of the procedure. A flap of chest or a flap of scalp typically covers the face.
The lungs are popular body parts that reveal answers in the pathology of adults ”“ even if they led a relatively healthy life and did not smoke tobacco products.
Doctors are able to pinpoint the effects of Alzheimer’s disease by noting a 10% shrinkage of the brain.
When an autopsy is completed, the organs are actually incinerated or placed in a bag that is situated inside the body before it is sewn closed.
The physical part of an autopsy typically takes as little as 30 minutes or can last for many hours depending on the case. Physicians must wait a few weeks before they receive the results of the lab work (referred to as toxicology), which could include information such as if any narcotics or toxins were present in the body before a person died.
Large organs of the human body are weighed on the same kind of scale found in the grocery store, while smaller organs (like the thyroid) are placed on a triple-bean balance.
There is a misconception that blood spurts out during an autopsy, but since dead bodies have no blood pressure, there is very little of this action when the procedure is performed.