Human Decomposition – Harsh Truths

The process of human decomposition occurs naturally. It is the gradual decomposition of tissue after a person’s death. The speed at which tissue disintegrates varies depending on many factors:

  • Time
  • Temperature
  • Humidity
  • pH level
  • Oxygen level
  • Cause of death
  • Body position

However, there are four stages of decomposition of the human body that are common to all humans.


What are the Four Stages of Human Decomposition?

Dr. Arpad A. Vass explains that human decomposition begins about four minutes after a person dies. It occurs in four stages:


  • Autolysis


After 48 hours, a first mechanism of degradation of the body occurs: autolysis. This is the rupture of the cell membrane under the effect of biochemical transformations. To understand, we must return to the fall of oxygen in the body during death. Without oxygen, no energy is possible. The body’s ionic balance is broken and the cell membranes explode. The muscle fibres gradually release the calcium that causes the body to become rigid. The rigidity gradually disappears after 36 hours. Two days after death, the body is flexible again.


  • Bloat 


Gases produced by bacteria will accumulate in the body. Those include for example methane, hydrogen sulphide and ammonia. This will produce a swelling of the abdomen, and of the body in general. The eyes will become puffy and the tongue will stick out. Such a characteristic and foul-smelling smell will then be felt, due to putrefaction. The enzymes will soon be joined by insects.


  • Active Decay


The release of fluids from the various orifices of the body indicates the onset of active decomposition. All organs, muscles and skin become increasingly fluid. The decomposition of all soft tissues in the body leads to the disappearance of hair, bones and cartilage. The loss of mass of the corpse body reaches its maximum at this stage.


  • Skeletonization


Squelching is the final stage of corns decomposition after death. Maybe it’s the most common read. But skeletal formation does not occur according to a precise schedule. The putrefaction rate is based on the loss of both organic and inorganic components


Body Decomposition Timeline

  • 24-72 hours after death: the internal decomposition of organs.
  • 3-5 days after death: swelling of the body and leakage of blood-containing foam.
  • 8-10 days after death: the organs in the abdomen accumulate gas and the body turns from green to red.
  • Several weeks after death: loss of teeth and nails.
  • 1 month after death: liquefaction of the body.

Dealing with Unattended or Traumatic Death? Get in Touch!

The proliferation of bacteria, mold and insects can damage the structure of the building. Once the body has been removed, a professional crime scene clean-up company has to be called. This company is equipped and trained not only to clean but also to disinfect the site thoroughly. Exposure to pathogens that can be transmitted through blood and body fluids. It is very dangerous and must be treated with care.

Crime Scene Intervention ensures that its trained, compassionate and discreet teams attend to the site of death as quickly as possible. This will help the victim’s loved ones move on to the healing stage.