Karyolysis (from Greek κάρυον karyon—kernel, seed, or nucleus), and λύσις lysis from λύειν lyein, "to separate") is the complete dissolution of the chromatin of a dying cell due to the enzymatic degradation by endonucleases. The whole cell will eventually stain uniformly with eosin after karyolysis. It is usually associated with karyorrhexis and occurs mainly as a result of necrosis, while in apoptosis after karyorrhexis the nucleus usually dissolves into apoptotic bodies.[1]

Disintegration of the cytoplasm, pyknosis of the nuclei, and karyolysis of the nuclei of scattered transitional cells may be seen in urine from healthy individuals as well as in urine containing malignant cells. Cells with an attached tag of partially preserved cytoplasm were initially described by Papanicolaou and are sometimes called comet or decoy cells. They may have some of the characteristics of malignancy, and it is therefore important that they be recognized for what they are.[2]

Nuclear changes
Morphological characteristics of karyolysis and other forms of nuclear destruction.

Additional images

MI with contraction bands very high mag

Micrograph showing karyolysis and contraction band necrosis in an individual that had a myocardial infarction (heart attack).

MI with contraction bands high mag

Micrograph showing karyolysis and contraction band necrosis (left of image) and ischemic (nucleated) cardiac myocytes (right of image) in an individual that had a myocardial infarction.

See also


  1. ^ Cotran; Kumar, Collins (1998). Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease. Philadelphia: W.B Saunders Company. ISBN 0-7216-7335-X.
  2. ^ Bibbo, Marluce (2008). Comprehensive Cytopathology (Third Edition). Elsevier Inc. pp. 409–437.
Algor mortis

Algor mortis (Latin: algor—coldness; mortis—of death), the second stage of death, is the change in body temperature post mortem, until the ambient temperature is matched. This is generally a steady decline, although if the ambient temperature is above the body temperature (such as in a hot desert), the change in temperature will be positive, as the (relatively) cooler body acclimates to the warmer environment. External factors can have a significant influence.

The term was first used by Dowler in 1849. The first published measurements of the intervals of temperature after death were done by Dr John Davey in 1839.


"Autoschizis" is a term derived from the Greek αὐτο- auto-, meaning "self", and σχίζειν skhizein, "to split". It was introduced in 1998 to describe a novel form of cancer cell death characterized by a reduction in cell size that occurs due to the loss of cytoplasm through self-excision (the cell splits open) without the loss of cell organelles, morphologic degradation of the cells nucleus and nucleolus without the formation of apoptotic bodies and destruction of the cell membrane. The cell death results from karyorrhexis and karyolysis. Autoschizis can be initiated via in vivo treatment with vitamin C (VC), synthetic vitamin K (VK3) or, better, a combination of both. The treatment has been tested on various types of cancer cells in vitro and in vivo with positive results.

Dead on arrival

Dead on arrival (DOA), also dead in the field and brought in dead (BID), indicates that a patient was found to be already clinically dead upon the arrival of professional medical assistance, often in the form of first responders such as emergency medical technicians, paramedics, or police.

In some jurisdictions, first responders must consult verbally with a physician before officially pronouncing a patient deceased, but once cardiopulmonary resuscitation is initiated, it must be continued until a physician can pronounce the patient dead.

Death messenger

Death messengers, in former times, were those who were dispatched to spread the news that an inhabitant of their city or village had died. They were to wear unadorned black and go door to door with the message, "You are asked to attend the funeral of the departed __________ at (time, date, and place)." This was all they were allowed to say, and were to move on to the next house immediately after uttering the announcement. This tradition persisted in some areas to as late as the mid-19th century.

Death rattle

Terminal respiratory secretions (or simply terminal secretions), known colloquially as a death rattle, are sounds often produced by someone who is near death as a result of fluids such as saliva and bronchial secretions accumulating in the throat and upper chest. Those who are dying may lose their ability to swallow and may have increased production of bronchial secretions, resulting in such an accumulation. Usually, two or three days earlier, the symptoms of approaching death can be observed as saliva accumulates in the throat, making it very difficult to take even a spoonful of water. Related symptoms can include shortness of breath and rapid chest movement. While death rattle is a strong indication that someone is near death, it can also be produced by other problems that cause interference with the swallowing reflex, such as brain injuries.It is sometimes misinterpreted as the sound of the person choking to death, or alternatively, that they are gargling.

Dignified death

Dignified death is a somewhat elusive concept often related to suicide. One factor that has been cited as a core component of dignified death is maintaining a sense of control. Another view is that a truly dignified death is an extension of a dignified life. There is some concern that assisted suicide does not guarantee a dignified death, since some patients may experience complications such as nausea and vomiting. There is some concern that age discrimination denies the elderly a dignified death.


In medicine, dysthanasia means "bad death" and is considered a common fault of modern medicine.Dysthanasia occurs when a person who is dying has their biological life extended through technological means without regard to the person's quality of life. Technologies such as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, artificial ventilation, ventricular assist devices, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can extend the dying process.

Dysthanasia is a term generally used when a person is seen to be kept alive artificially in a condition where, otherwise, they cannot survive; sometimes for some sort of ulterior motive. The term was used frequently in the investigation into the death of Formula One driver Ayrton Senna in 1994.


Karyorrhexis (from Greek κάρυον karyon, "kernel, seed or nucleus", and ῥῆξις rhexis, "bursting") is the destructive fragmentation of the nucleus of a dying cell whereby its chromatin is distributed irregularly throughout the cytoplasm. It is usually preceded by pyknosis and can occur as a result of either programmed cell death (apoptosis), senescence, or necrosis.

In apoptosis, the cleavage of DNA is done by Ca2+ and Mg2+ -dependent endonucleases.

Lazarus sign

The Lazarus sign or Lazarus reflex is a reflex movement in brain-dead or brainstem failure patients, which causes them to briefly raise their arms and drop them crossed on their chests (in a position similar to some Egyptian mummies). The phenomenon is named after the Biblical figure Lazarus of Bethany, whom Jesus raised from the dead in the Gospel of John.


Megadeath (or megacorpse) is one million human deaths, usually caused by a nuclear explosion. The term was used by scientists and thinkers who strategized likely outcomes of all-out nuclear warfare.

Myocardial infarction complications

Myocardial infarction complications may occur immediately following a heart attack (in the acute phase), or may need time to develop (a chronic problem). After an infarction, an obvious complication is a second infarction, which may occur in the domain of another atherosclerotic coronary artery, or in the same zone if there are any live cells left in the infarct.

Post-myocardial complications occur after a period of ischemia, these changes can be seen in gross tissue changes and microscopic changes. Necrosis begins after 20 minutes of an infarction. Under 4 hours of ischemia, there are no gross or microscopic changes noted.

From 4-24 hours coagulative necrosis begins to be seen, which is characterized by the removal of dead cardiomyocytes through heterolysis and the nucleus through karyorrhexis, karyolysis, and pyknosis. On gross examination, coagulative necrosis shows darkened discoloration of the infarcted tissue. The most common complication during this period is arrhythmias.

Day 1-7 is marked by the inflammatory phase. Days 1-3 are marked by “acute inflammation”, in which neutrophils infiltrate the ischemic tissue. A major complication during this period is fibrinous pericarditis, particularly in transmural ventricular wall damage (an infarct that impacted all 3 layers of the heart, the epicardium, myocardium, and endocardium). This leads to inflammation, such as swelling, leading to rubbing of the heart on the pericardium. Day 4 through 7 are marked by “chronic inflammation”, on histology macrophages will be seen infiltrating the tissue. The role of these macrophages is the removal of necrotic myocytes. However, these cells are directly involved in the weakening of the tissue, leading to complications such as a ventricular free wall rupture, intraventricular septum rupture, or a papillary muscle rupture. At a gross anatomical level, this staged is marked by a yellow pallor.

Weeks 1-3 are marked on histology by abundant capillaries, and fibroblast infiltration. Fibroblasts start replacing the lost cardiomyocytes with collagen type 1 and leads to the granulation of tissue.

After several weeks fibrosis occurs and heavy collagen formation. Collagen is not as strong or compliant as the myocardium that it replaced, this instability could lead to a ventricular aneurysm, and the stasis of blood in an aneurysm can lead to a mural thrombus. A rarer complication that also occurs during this time is Dressler’s syndrome and is thought to have autoimmune origins.


A necronym (from the Greek words νεκρός, nekros, "dead" and ὄνομα ónoma, "name") is a reference to, or name of, a person who has died. Many cultures have taboos and traditions associated with referring to such a person. These vary from the extreme of never again speaking the person's real name, often using some circumlocution instead, to the opposite extreme of commemorating it incessantly by naming other things or people after the deceased.

For instance, in some cultures it is common for a newborn child to receive the name (a necronym) of a relative who has recently died, while in others to reuse such a name would be considered extremely inappropriate or even forbidden. While this varies from culture to culture, the use of necronyms is quite common.


Necrophobia is a specific phobia which is the irrational fear of dead things (e.g., corpses) as well as things associated with death (e.g., coffins, tombstones, funerals, cemeteries). With all types of emotions, obsession with death becomes evident in both fascination and objectification. In a cultural sense, necrophobia may also be used to mean a fear of the dead by a cultural group, e.g., a belief that the spirits of the dead will return to haunt the living.Symptoms include: shortness of breath, rapid breathing, irregular heartbeat, sweating, dry mouth and shaking, feeling sick and uneasy, psychological instability, and an altogether feeling of dread and trepidation. The sufferer may feel this phobia all the time. The sufferer may also experience this sensation when something triggers the fear, like a close encounter with a dead animal or the funeral of a loved one or friend. The fear may have developed when a person witnessed a death, or was forced to attend a funeral as a child. Some people experience this after viewing frightening media.The fear can manifest itself as a serious condition. Treatment options include medication and therapy.The word necrophobia is derived from the Greek nekros (νεκρός) for "corpse" and the Greek phobos (φόβος) for "fear".


Necrosis (from the Greek νέκρωσις "death, the stage of dying, the act of killing" from νεκρός "dead") is a form of cell injury which results in the premature death of cells in living tissue by autolysis.Necrosis is caused by factors external to the cell or tissue, such as infection, toxins, or trauma which result in the unregulated digestion of cell components.

In contrast, apoptosis is a naturally occurring programmed and targeted cause of cellular death.

While apoptosis often provides beneficial effects to the organism, necrosis is almost always detrimental and can be fatal.Cellular death due to necrosis does not follow the apoptotic signal transduction pathway, but rather various receptors are activated, and result in the loss of cell membrane integrity and an uncontrolled release of products of cell death into the extracellular space.This initiates in the surrounding tissue an inflammatory response which attracts leukocytes and nearby phagocytes which eliminate the dead cells by phagocytosis. However, microbial damaging substances released by leukocytes would create collateral damage to surrounding tissues. This excess collateral damage inhibits the healing process. Thus, untreated necrosis results in a build-up of decomposing dead tissue and cell debris at or near the site of the cell death. A classic example is gangrene. For this reason, it is often necessary to remove necrotic tissue surgically, a procedure known as debridement.


An obituary (obit for short) is a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person's life and information about the upcoming funeral. In large cities and larger newspapers, obituaries are written only for people considered significant. In local newspapers, an obituary may be published for any local resident upon death. A necrology is a register or list of records of the deaths of people related to a particular organization, group or field, which may only contain the sparsest details, or small obituaries. Historical necrologies can be important sources of information.

Two types of paid advertisements are related to obituaries. One, known as a death notice, omits most biographical details and may be a legally required public notice under some circumstances. The other type, a paid memorial advertisement, is usually written by family members or friends, perhaps with assistance from a funeral home. Both types of paid advertisements are usually run as classified advertisements.

Pallor mortis

Pallor mortis (Latin: pallor "paleness", mortis "of death"), the first stage of death, is an after-death paleness that occurs in those with light/white skin.

Post-mortem interval

Post-mortem interval (PMI) is the time that has elapsed since a person has died. If the time in question is not known, a number of medical/scientific techniques are used to determine it. This also can refer to the stage of decomposition of the body.


Pyknosis, or karyopyknosis, is the irreversible condensation of chromatin in the nucleus of a cell undergoing necrosis or apoptosis. It is followed by karyorrhexis, or fragmentation of the nucleus.

Pyknosis (from Greek pyknono meaning "to thicken up, to close or to condense") is also observed in the maturation of erythrocytes (a red blood cell) and the neutrophil (a type of white blood cell). The maturing metarubricyte (a stage in RBC maturation) will condense its nucleus before expelling it to become a reticulocyte. The maturing neutrophil will condense its nucleus into several connected lobes that stay in the cell until the end of its cell life.

Pyknotic nuclei are often found in the zona reticularis of the adrenal gland. They are also found in the keratinocytes of the outermost layer in parakeratinised epithelium.

Rigor mortis

Rigor mortis (Latin: rigor "stiffness", mortis "of death"), or postmortem rigidity, is the third stage of death. It is one of the recognizable signs of death, characterized by stiffening of the limbs of the corpse caused by chemical changes in the muscles postmortem. In humans, rigor mortis can occur as soon as four hours after death.

Principles of pathology
Anatomical pathology
Clinical pathology

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