POSTMORTEM CAREBY:BELEN G. DE LOS TRINOS, RN,RM,MANProfessor
6 SIGNS OF DEATHHeartbeat:There is no sign of heartbeat and theclient has stopped breathingMouth:The mouth is slightly open, because thejaw muscles go slackEyes:The eyes have stopped blinking and thegaze is fixed.The eyes are open because themuscles that control the eyelids relaxBody temperature:The body temperature dropsSkin:The client’s color change.They get verypale, and may appear to be gray, yellow, or blue.Bowel and bladder:The bowel and the bladderrelease.
Key TermsAlgor mortis– reduction of bodytemperature with loss of skinelasticityLivor mortis– discoloration of skinin dependent areasRigor mortis– stiffening of thebody, developing within 2 – 4 hoursafter death
Changes in the Body After DeathSeveral changes occur in the bodyimmediately after death.Theseinclude:Rigor mortisAlgor mortisLivor mortisIf the body is not handled gently,skinindentationmay also occur.
Rigor MortisIs the stiffening of the body that occursabout 2-4 hours after death.Results from a lack of adenosinetriphosphate (ATP), which causes themuscles to contract, which in turnimmobilizes the joints.Starts in the involuntary muscles (heart,bladder, and so on), then progresses tothe head and neck, and trunk, andfinally reaches the extremities.
Rigor Mortis (cont)Because the deceased person’s familyoften wants to view the body, andbecause it is important that thedeceased appear natural andcomfortable, nurses should: (1)Position the body, (2) Place dentures inthe mouth, (3) close the eyes andmouth, before rigor mortis sets in.Rigor mortis usually leaves the bodyabout 96 hours after death.
Algor MortisIs the gradual decrease of the body’stemperature after deathWhen body circulation terminates andthe hypothalamus ceases to function,body temperature falls about 1°C(1.8°F) per hour until it reaches roomtemperatureSimultaneously, the skin loses itselasticity and can easily be broken whenremoving dressings and adhesive tapes.