An autopsy is an exam of the body of a person who has died. The purpose of an autopsy is to answer questions about the person's illness or the cause of death. In addition, autopsies provide valuable information that helps doctors save the lives of others. Autopsies are performed by specially trained physicians, called pathologists. The autopsy begins with a complete external examination. The body weight and height are recorded, and identifying marks such as scars and tattoos are documented.
The internal examination begins with the creation of a Y or U- shaped incision from both shoulders joining over the sternum and continuing down to the pubic bone. The skin and underlying tissues are then separated to expose the rib cage and abdominal cavity. The front of the rib cage is removed to expose the neck and chest organs. This opening allows the trachea (windpipe), thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, heart, thoracic aorta and lungs to be removed. Following removal of the neck and chest organs, the abdominal organs are cut (dissected) free. These include the intestines, liver, gallbladder and bile duct system, pancreas, spleen, adrenal glands, kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder, abdominal aorta, and reproductive organs.
To remove the brain, an incision is made in the back of the skull from one ear to the other. The scalp is cut and separated from the underlying skull and pulled forward. The top of the skull is removed using a vibrating saw. The entire brain is then gently lifted out of the cranial vault. The spinal cord may also be taken by removing the anterior or posterior portion of the spinal column. In general, pieces of all of the major organs mentioned above are converted into thin sections of tissue that can be placed on slides and studied under a microscope. The organs may be returned to the body or may be retained for teaching, research, and diagnostic purposes. At the end of an...
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