Autopsy: internal in situ examination

[Dr. Fowler]: The body is opened by an incision which is made in a Y-shaped format across the upper chest and then down the abdomen so that we can gain access to both the chest and the abdominal cavity. The front of the chest plate is opened by cutting through the ribs. This is then removed and, at that stage, the pathologist has access to all of the internal organs in the chest and abdomen. This is a really good time to do what we call an in situ examination. Look at the shape and size of the organs relative to each other. If there are any collections of fluid, blood; that would then start directing the autopsy as to the potential source. It is also a very good time to collect any essential special investigations such as blood cultures or toxicology specimens that are going to be sent off to other laboratories.