Forensic pathology
Forensic autopsy report
External examination

Topic Completed: 1 January 2013

Revised: 26 August 2019

Copyright: (c) 2003-2019,, Inc.

PubMed search: Autopsy external exam

Page views in 2019: 374
Page views in 2020 to date: 37
Cite this page: Tops TL. External examination . website. Accessed February 18th, 2020.
  • State body weight, height, age, body temperature, rigor, and lividity
Head / neck
  • Describe hair color, facial hair, eye color, oral cavity, ear canals, nose, lips, and teeth
  • Describe chest, abdomen, back, anus, and genitalia
  • Describe upper / lower limbs, and fingernails / toenails
  • Describe tattoos, ID tags, medical / surgical intervention, etc...
  • Describe any defects to support cause of death (COD)
Body surface
  • State anything to suggest evidence of cause of death, such as: gunshot wounds, blunt trauma, sharp force injury, illicit drug residue, anasarca, obesity, emaciation, sexual assault

Evidence of injury (examples)
  • This section usually contains both external and internal descriptions of injury
Gunshot wounds (GSW)
  • List each GSW trajectory separately, determine how many entry (penetrating) / exit (perforation) wounds, range of fire, soot / stippling, trajectory, recovery of projectile(s), state in proper order of anatomic landmarks injured by each GSW, hemorrhage, etc.
Blunt force injuries from motor vehicle accident (MVA)
  • Trace evidence collected on body (e.g., paint chips or glass), pattern contusions / abrasions, fractures, lacerations, avulsions, hemorrhage, etc.
Stab wounds
  • Cuts, incisions, defense wounds, determine the knife's sharp verses blunt end in each skin wound, depth of wound, organs affected, hemorrhage, etc.
Additional injuries
  • Minor lesions that are attributed by the mechanism or cause of death
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