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“Rigor Mortis” in a Live Patient

Chakravarthy, Murali MD, DA, DNB

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2010 - Volume 31 - Issue 1 - p 87-88
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181c21c3d
Case Report

Rigor mortis is conventionally a postmortem change. Its occurrence suggests that death has occurred at least a few hours ago. The authors report a case of “Rigor Mortis” in a live patient after cardiac surgery. The likely factors that may have predisposed such premortem muscle stiffening in the reported patient are, intense low cardiac output status, use of unusually high dose of inotropic and vasopressor agents and likely sepsis. Such an event may be of importance while determining the time of death in individuals such as described in the report. It may also suggest requirement of careful examination of patients with muscle stiffening prior to declaration of death. This report is being published to point out the likely controversies that might arise out of muscle stiffening, which should not always be termed rigor mortis and/ or postmortem.

From the Department of Anesthesiology, Critical Care and Pain Relief, Wockhardt Heart Institute, Bangalore, Karnataka.

Manuscript received January 2, 2009; accepted March 18, 2009.

Reprints: Murali Chakravarthy, MD, DA, DNB, Wockhardt Heart Institute, Bangalore, Karnataka 560076, India. E-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.