Morticians Describe the Most Gruesome Facts About Dead Bodies

Ever asked yourself, "What happens to dead bodies once they end up on the mortician's table?" Most people might have at least a passing knowledge of embalming methods, but what of the more specific and, for lack of a better term, grosser details?  

For anyone with a morbid curiosity about the fates of dead people, consider these mortician facts, shared by real morticians and funeral directors via a Reddit thread, as well as an AMA with a mortician who specializes in facial reconstructive surgery.

  • 'Decomposing Bodies Almost Always Have A Lime-Green Abdomen.'

    From Redditor u/Tejnin:

    I'll start with cool facts:

    We use denture adhesive to put skulls back together.

    Decomposing bodies almost always have a lime-green abdomen.

    Once, a husband asked me to make his wife "perky."

    Decapitations are not fun... it involves a lot of stitching and wax.

    I've had to work on bodies so severely dehydrated that they looked like jerky, but the results were amazing.

    Rigor mortis makes muscles stiff so yes, genitalia might be 'hard' but it will be very small because of lack of blood flow, unless he died face-down but then it would be flaccid.

    When you die, blood gravitates/settles so that's where you swell... I had a man who had his face swollen from blood on half and completely dried out on the other side.

    If someone is overweight, it is likely that they will have to buy two cemetery plots... he/she may not be able to fit in the crematory retort [cremation furnace] and we do not chop bodies to make them fit.

    I hate that if a mother and baby die, they can't go into the crematory retort together in Michigan... state law.

    I have had to make an entire new face before using modeling clay, wax, and a lot of makeup.

  • Working On The Bodies Of People You Knew

    "QHave you ever encountered someone you know? And how do you remain calm when you're around death all the time?"  

    A from u/Tejnin: "I've dealt with a few... That was rough, I cried. I haven't had to work on someone super close yet but I'd rather work on them than someone else. I don't trust anyone to do as good of a job with my loved ones as myself."

  • After The Autopsy, You Get Your Organs Back

    From a deleted reddit user

    "When the embalmers get the body, the autopsy tech finishes. For the manner that this describes (a full autopsy), we undo all of the sutures. The viscera, which is usually placed back inside, is now taken out again. We then put the organs into a bucket filled with cavity fluid, which is a higher concentration of the embalming fluid that is injected into the vascular system. Now the body is prepared. Severed vessels are tied off, and injection and drainage of arterial fluid is begun. While in a regular case, we try for injection in the right common carotid artery and drainage from the right jugular vein, this is not possible with a case that has had an autopsy. Multiple vessels are chosen for injection and drainage, and the process is begun. After the embalming process is completed, the newly disinfected organs are placed back in the abdomen, hardening compound is placed over top, and the deceased is re-sutured. The brain would have also been taken out, to later be put back in. The funeral director will set the brain inside the skull, put the calvarium (the piece of skull that was sawed off) back on, and wire it into place using either a needle injector with pins, or by drilling holes it the two pieces and wiring it shut that way. The skin and epicranius is gently pulled back over the skull, and hidden sutures are used to secure the skin in place. A sealant is placed over the sutures to prevent leakage, embalming powder may be placed over the skin, and plastic garments are usually worn under the clothes to prevent them from getting wet, and to keep the casket dry. Regular procedures such as setting the features would have been done before the actual injection. To hide visible sutures, a wax with cosmetics would be placed over the line of demarcation.  

    "For organ donors the process is similar to that used on an autopsied body. For long bone donors, such as the femur, a PVC pipe or dowel will be placed inside the empty cavity to recreate natural form. Bodies where the deceased donated skin will have to be cauterized where the skin is missing, usually the back and backside, then dressed in plastic garments to prevent leakage. If the eye has been removed in a tissue donation, the cavity is disinfected, packed with cotton, an eye cap is placed over top, and the lids are closed.  

    "I apologize if I missed anything!"

  • Concerning Gunshot Wounds

    From redditor u/Tejnin

    "I worked on several cases before involving gunshot wounds. They take a lot of time: denture adhesive for putting bones back together and a lot of phenol to stop bruising, but both cases were good. I learned so many tricks for makeup that day."

  • Q: If I Were To Donate My Balls, How Would You Remove Them?

    From a deleted user

    "Tie off the gonadal arteries, stitch you closed, and proceed as normal. I'm guessing it's similar to having your testicles removed if you were to have testicular cancer, torsion, or some other disease process. Not having any myself, I'm not entirely sure of all that can go wrong with men."

  • "The Entire Organ Set Can Be Yanked Out In One Piece"

    "Say you die in a manner that requires an autopsy. In no particular order and skipping mundane examination facts, here's what can/will happen according to a deleted user:

    "Your body will be taken to a morgue where a pathologist and/or a pathologist's assistant will make a Y-incision starting just under the shoulders, meeting in the center of the sternum and then going down to your pubic bone. If you're a lady, we cut underneath the breasts. Your ribs are cracked and the thoracic cavity is opened. With the organs exposed, a series of cuts are made that sever the connections to the esophagus, larynx, certain arteries and ligaments. Next, the organs' attachment to the spinal cord as well as the attachment to the bladder and rectum is severed. Once this is done, the entire organ set can be yanked out in one piece and makes dissection a breeze.  

    "Then your brain is removed. A cut is made with a scalpel from behind one ear, across the forehead, to the other ear and around. The cut is divided, and the scalp is pulled away from the skull in two flaps. The front flap goes over your face and the rear flap over the back of the neck. The skull is cut with a special saw to create what's called a 'cap' that can be pried off, exposing the brain. When the cap is pulled off (there is a sucking vacuumy pop when you pull it off) , the dura remains attached to the bottom of the skull cap. The brain is now exposed much like Ray Liota's in Hannibal. Your brain's connection to the spinal cord is severed, and the brain is lifted out of the skull for examination. 

    "By now you're a shell (literally) of your living self. Examinations are finished. Your organs are either preserved or disposed of (most medical waste is incinerated) or put into viscera bags and put back into your body cavity.  

    "You're sewn up with 'baseball' stitches, called so because they resemble the stitching on a baseball. The skull cap is placed back on your cranium and sewed into the scalp to close. We call the mortician and your new embalming or cremation journey begins."