PUTREFACTION OR DECO^IPOSITIO^ 137
dilated, and is usually empty containing a few gas "bubbles. The organ itself
can be recognized for several months.
The Lungs.—These organs putrefy at about the same time as the heart
or a little earlier in a few cases. The first sign of putrescence in the lungs
is the formation of gaseous bullse under the pleural membranes. These are
at first pale-red, small, and scattered over the various parts of the lungs,
and later they coalesce. The colour of the lungs does not change with the
development of these bullse, but it then changes to dark, black and green
as putrefaction progresses. Later the lungs become soft, collapse, and are
reduced to a small black mass, which is ultimately completely destroyed.
The diaphragm resists putrefaction for a long time, and may be recognizable
even after six months.
The Kidneys.—The kidneys become brown and greenish, but retain their
consistence for long, so that diseases, such as nephritis and cancer, can be
detected for a long time after death.
The Bladder.—This organ, if empty and contracted, resists putrefaction
for a long time, but undergoes decomposition rapidly if it has been distended
and inflamed. Within forty-eight hours after death the urine in the bladder
may usually contain albumin owing to the transudation of serum albumin
and globulin from the blood. The prostate gland resists putrefaction for
a long time and can therefore be identified when the adjoining tissues are
in a state of advanced decomposition.
The Oesophagus.—The Oesophagus withstands putrefaction for a very
long time, and may be recognized long after the stomach has entirely dis-
The Blood Vessels.—The blood vessels, particularly large arterial trunks,
resist putrefaction for a long period. The aorta may be recognized after
a burial of even fourteen months.
The Uterus.—The virgin uterus is the last organ to putrefy, and may be
useful in determining the sex long after the complete destruction of the
external genitals from advanced decomposition. It should, however, be
remembered that the impregnated or gravid uterus soon after delivery
rapidly undergoes putrefaction. I have seen some cases in which the uterus
was found decomposed in three to four days after death and completely des-
troyed by maggots in four to five days after death, especially during summer.
Putrefaction in Water.—The rate of putrefaction of a body in water is
more reliable than that of a body exposed to the air or interred, as the
temperature of the water is more uniform, and the body is protected from
the air, as long as it remains submerged in water. jQrdinarily, a body
takes twice as much time in water as in air to undergo the same degree of
putrefaction. ^Putrefaction is retarded, when a body is lying in deep water
and is well protected by clothing, while it is hastened in a body lying in
water contaminated with sewage. Putrefaction is accelerated-, when once
a body has been removed from water, as the tissues have imbibed much
fluid. In such a body decomposition is so rapid, that the changes occurring
in twenty-four hours' exposure to the air will be more marked than those
ordinarily resulting from a fortnight's further submersion.
Owing to the blood gravitating towards the head which sinks low in
water the colour changes of decomposition are first noticed on the face
instead of on the abdomen as in ordinary putrefaction. These changes
gradually spread downwards from the face to the neck, upper extremities,
chest, abdomen and lower lirnbs.
The following table drawn up from the observations of Devergie shows
the putrefactive changes occurring at different periods of time in a body
submerged in water : —