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Death and Dying

What does marbling mean in association with death?

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December 12, 2010 4:27PM

Typically, the first visible sign of putrefaction is a greenish discolouration of the skin of

the anterior abdominal wall. This most commonly begins in the right iliac fossa, i.e. over

the area of the caecum, (where the contents of the bowel are more fluid and full of

bacteria), but occasionally, the first changes are peri-umbilical, or in the left iliac fossa.

The discolouration, due to sulph-haemoglobin formation, spreads to involve the entire

anterior abdominal wall, and then the flanks, chest, limbs and face. As this colour change

evolves, the superficial veins of the skin become visible as a purple-brown network of

arborescent markings, which tend to be most prominent around the shoulders and upper

chest, abdomen and groins. This change, owing to its characteristic appearance, is often

described as "marbling".