Livor mortis

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Stages of death

Pallor mortis
Algor mortis
Rigor mortis
Livor mortis

Livor mortis (Latin: livor—"bluish color," mortis—"of death"), postmortem lividity (Latin: postmortem—"after death", lividity—"black and blue"), hypostasis (Greek: hypo, meaning "under, beneath"; stasis, meaning "a standing"[1][2]) or suggillation, is one of the signs of death. Livor mortis is a settling of the blood in the lower (dependent) portion of the body, causing a purplish red discoloration of the skin. When the heart stops functioning and is no longer agitating the blood, heavy red blood cells sink through the serum by action of gravity.

Livor mortis starts in twenty minutes to thirty minutes. Then color becomes purplish red in next 1-3 hours. Size of patches increase in next 3-6 hours. Maximum lividity occurs within 6–12 hours. The blood pools into the interstitial tissues of the body. The intensity of the color depends upon the amount of reduced hemoglobin in the blood. The discoloration does not occur in the areas of the body that are in contact with the ground or another object, in which capillaries are compressed. As the vessel walls become permeable due to decomposition, blood leaks through them and stains the tissue. This is the reason for fixation of hypostasis.

Livor mortis in a corpse.

Coroners can use the presence or absence of livor mortis as a means of determining an approximate time of death. It can also be used by forensic investigators to determine whether or not a body has been moved - for instance, if the body is found lying face down but the pooling is present on the deceased's back, investigators can conclude that the body was originally positioned face up.

Notes and references

  • Calixto Machado, "Brain death: a reappraisal", Springer, 2007, ISBN 0-387-38975-X, p. 74
  • Robert G. Mayer, "Embalming: history, theory, and practice", McGraw-Hill Professional, 2005, ISBN 0-07-143950-1, pp. 106–109
  • Anthony J. Bertino "Forensic Science: Fundamentals and Investigations" South-Western Cengage Learning, 2008, ISBN 978-0-538-44586-3