PMID: 7534470Jan 1, 1994

Morphology of sweat glands in determining time of death

International Journal of Legal Medicine
M CingolaniS D Ferrara


This study demonstrates post-mortem autolytic alterations in the skin at cellular and subcellular levels and identifies parameters which may assist in determining the time of death in the first few hours post-mortem. Serial skin samples from the ventral surface of the arm were taken at intervals of 3, 6, 9 and 12 h after death in 29 subjects of various ages, with no signs of skin disease; causes of death were various. Three types of tests were performed: cytochemical (hematoxylin-eosin and alcian-PAS), immunohistochemical (S-100, CEA, Cytokeratin, ASM) and ultrastructural (electron microscopy). Electron microscopy proved useful for identifying transformations which were found to be specific for each chronological step considered: reduction of intracellular glycogen in clear cells and reduction of secretory granules in dark cells are typical signs of the first stage (3 h) after death; mitochondrial dilatation and rarefaction of cristae in clear and dark cells are typical of the second stage (6 h); rarefaction of microvilli in dark and clear cells is a sign of the last stage (12 h). Cytochemistry and immunohistochemistry supply useful information--not for all the chronological stage considered here, but for individual phases (3 h...Continue Reading


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