"Rigor mortis" in a live patient

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2010 Mar;31(1):87-8. doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181c21c3d.


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.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiopulmonary Bypass
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Female
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis Implantation
  • Humans
  • Mitral Valve / surgery
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Pulse
  • Rigor Mortis*
  • Trismus
  • Vasoconstrictor Agents / administration & dosage


  • Vasoconstrictor Agents
  • Oxygen