Gas analysis of exhumed cadavers buried for 30 years: a case report about long time alteration

Int J Legal Med. 2014 Jul;128(4):719-24. doi: 10.1007/s00414-014-0998-9. Epub 2014 May 3.


Due to important alteration caused by long time decomposition, the gases in human bodies buried for more than a year have not been investigated. For the first time, the results of gas analysis sampled from bodies recently exhumed after 30 years are presented. Adipocere formation has prevented the bodies from too important alteration, and gaseous areas were identified. The sampling was performed with airtight syringes assisted by multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) in those specific areas. The important amount of methane (CH4), coupled to weak amounts of hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), usual gaseous alteration indicators, have permitted to confirm methanogenesis mechanism for long period of alteration. H2 and CO2 produced during the first stages of the alteration process were consumed through anaerobic oxidation by methanogenic bacteria, generating CH4.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Burial
  • Carbon Dioxide / analysis
  • Exhumation*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Gases / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Methane / analysis
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography
  • Nitrogen / analysis
  • Oxygen / analysis
  • Postmortem Changes*
  • Time Factors


  • Gases
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Hydrogen
  • Nitrogen
  • Methane
  • Oxygen