Normal postmortem changes in the gastrointestinal tract

Last revised by Hamish Smith on 8 Jan 2019

Normal postmortem changes in the gastrointestinal tract​ refers to the normal changes that can be expected to be seen in the gastrointestinal tract on post-mortem imaging.

Radiographic features


The following changes may be present in the abdomen and gastrointestinal tract 1:

  • intraluminal fluid of a variety of densities can be expected from a variety sources 3 (e.g. food within the gastrointestinal tract, medications, oral contrast administered prior to death, hemorrhage)
  • hyperdensity of the walls of the gastrointestinal tract 1
  • intraluminal gas (as a result of gastrointestinal ischemia and injury during circulatory death 1)
  • intraluminal gastric and intestinal gaseous dilation (both as a normal change; but this may also be compounded as a result of CPR or other resuscitative efforts 2)
  • portal venous gas may be present 1
  • intravascular gas and sedimentation in mesenteric vessels, the aorta and large veins can also be expected

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