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Follow a human autopsy process from start to finish including an external examination, opening the body, viewing internal organs, removing the organs and weighing them, removing the brain, replacing all organs and closing the body.



Please note, this interactive autopsy is only available to view on select browsers, such as Chrome. You will need to enable flash for the animation to work correctly. To view the text on each step of the autopsy, please select relevant sections as below.


The following is a step by step demonstration of what happens during an autopsy procedure.

Warning: some people might find this section disturbing. It contains detailed information about what happens in an autopsy.

<< Start >>


The first step in any forensic autopsy is the external examination of the body.

The forensic pathologist performs a detailed external examination of the body. The results are recorded and all physical characteristics are listed.

The body must be measured and weighed.

The autopsy table is a waist-high stainless steel table with running water to facilitate washing away all the blood that is released during the procedure. The autopsy table is a slanted tray (for drainage) with raised edges (to keep blood and fluids from flowing onto the floor).

<< Begin Examination >>

Roll your mouse over various parts of the body to get additional information. You can select the chest, fingers, shoulders, legs and elbows to find more about them.

<< Next Step >>


To expose the internal organs the pathologist must open the body. The first cut known as the 'Y' incision, is made. The arms of the Y extend from the front of each shoulder to the bottom end of the breastbone. The tail of the Y extends from the sternum to the pubic bone and typically deviates to avoid the navel.

The incision is very deep, extending to the rib cage on the chest, and completely through the abdominal wall below that. The skin from this cut is peeled back, with the top flap pulled over the face.

<< Begin Cut >>

<< Next step >>


Following the Y incision the ribs are sawn off to expose the internal organs.

The sternal plate or anterior chest wall is cut away, to expose the organs underneath.

Roll your mouse over each organ to find out what the organs are.

<< Next step >>


Each pathology service has its own autopsy technique. The most common way to remove the organs is known as the Rokitansky method - removing the body organs all at once. That is, the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and spleen etc are removed in one block and then dissected on the autopsy table.

Remove all of the organs dragging with your mouse and place on the sink area below.

<< Next step >>


To remove the brain, an incision is made in the back of the scalp 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 brain is then either cut fresh or is placed in a 20 per cent solution of formalin to fix it for future analysis.

<< Next step >>


Take the organs that are to be weighed one at a time from the tray to the scales.

Intestines and stomach are not weighed.

The pathologist drains the intestines in a sink to remove any undigested food and faeces that remain. The stomach is cut open and the contents are examined.

<< Next step >>


The organs can be replaced in the body or the body can be filled with a filler material before it is sewn up again.

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After the pathologist has finished the examination and the organs are returned to the body, the forensic technician will sew the body back up.

Once the Y incision and the head are sewn up, the autopsy (without brain and tissue analysis) is complete.

Stitching of the incision is like that on a baseball.

<< Next step >>



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