top of page

How is a post mortem procedure actually performed?

Samuel Piri our educational lead spills all...

The science of human anatomy is fascinating. Cadaveric dissection is increasingly scarce and difficult, and while it underlies the teaching and learning in most medical schools there are many institutions and courses that can't access human cadaver dissection.

Seeing, touching, feeling and doing are the best ways to learn, encompassing all of the senses in the learning experience is the best way to secure understanding. We know healthcare professionals work best when they fully understand the clinical pathology and can map this into something they can relate to. Dissection is not just important, it is crucial. With the help of VIVIT, Samuel Piri's live post mortem experience is transforming the teaching and learning of human anatomy at level 3 and above. If you are a college or university lecturer or course leader, contact us today to find out how we can support you and your students in getting hands-on with real anatomical samples in our live post mortem experience.

Cadaveric Dissection

The human body is made up of 78 organs organised into 11 systems. The complexity and overlap between such systems are so present throughout the entire structure of the human body meaning isolating each system for individual hands-on study is completely impossible. Instead, we dissect the human body studying the anatomical cavities.

The human body is made up of 2 major cavities, within each are in turn 2 sub cavities.

The ventral (front) cavity

i) The thoracic cavity

Contains the heart, lungs, trachea, diaphragm.

ii) The abdominal-pelvic cavity

Contains the GI tract, kidneys, bladder, (f. uterus)

The dorsal (back) cavity

i) The cranial cavity

The brain

ii) The vertebral cavity

The spinal cord

These collectively house the major organs and intern form what we call the anatomical trunk. Attached to the trunk are the 4 extremities, the arms and legs. In terms pathology, the human body is studied by its anatomical cavity as opposed to by individual systems.

Upon death if a post-mortem is required the organs are removed for closer examination, the cadaver is opened up by cavity and the contents removed for study. If pathology isn't visible by initial superficial inspection, then organ slices may be required. This usually means samples are dissected into 10mm thick slices and studied. Sometimes tissues samples may be studied at the microscopic level.

Sometimes organ slices and tissue samples may be required to be retained. Tissues or organs can be processed into blocks or slides and then preserved and retained for clinical assurance and/or educational uses. Your next of kin will be told if samples are retained.

Formaldehyde is a chemical that is used to preserve human cadavers. A typical human cadaver can be used for study for many years if prepared and stored correctly. Any institution using human cadavers for educational purposes is strictly regulated by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA).

More information can be found at


bottom of page