View Full Version : Autopsy/Dissection Terminology Question

04-24-2019, 02:58 AM
Hello everyone,

I have a terminology question (or maybe it's more like jargon) in regards to an autopsy.

My understanding has been that at the point in an autopsy after the Y-incision is made, the skin and muscle tissue tends to get cut away/scraped off the sternum and part of the rib cage so these shears that look like bolt-cutters can be used to remove the bone so the examiner/pathologist can get to the heart and lungs and such. I'd referred to this action as "filleting" (or, in context, "I started the Y-incision, filleted him"). My editor flagged it, saying that it doesn't make sense, even with context, and I may be using the wrong word.

I don't feel confident enough in my loose smattering of medical knowledge to make this the hill I die on in edits, but is this the right term? Is there a better or more accurate way of phrasing this?

Thank you!

04-24-2019, 03:14 AM
Don't know the correct medical term, but 'filleting' him sounds more like a fishing term. As such, while appropriate for a salmon, it's probably somewhat disrespectful when used for a human being.
I'm sure someone with actual medical training will be along soon.

04-24-2019, 07:11 AM
You make the incision and peel the skin and muscles back. If structures need to be released it's call dissection. Cutting into the chest cavity is called a thoracotomy. There's a name for removing the rib cage but I'd have to look it up. When the person is alive you crack the chest and you don't usually take the rib cage out.

Mind you there may be other names.

04-24-2019, 07:31 AM
Do you mean "flaying" him?

P.K. Torrens
04-24-2019, 03:04 PM
Filleting brings up the wrong kinda imagery.

You really don’t need to remove anything. What you are essentially doing is cutting into different cavities for exposure I.e. so you can see areas of interest. Solid organs you can remove for further testing.

So if you wanted to sound casual, try something like: I started the Y-incision, opened him like a book... etc.

I think it’s okay for Docs/pathologists to sound casual/disrespectful with inner dialogue. Dark humour is how we get through tough days. And there are many of those.

04-25-2019, 04:33 AM
Take a look at https://www.archivesofpathology.org/doi/pdf/10.1043/0003-9985%282000%29124%3C0594%3ATAL%3E2.0.CO%3B2

On page 8 is the section you want and it says: "Chest and Abdomen Walls and Cavities.The skin of the chest and abdomen is reflected using the usual Y-shaped incision."

I have never heard or seen a medical examiner use "filleting" and would expect it only to be used if filleting had been done prior to the autopsy. "Reflected" is the only term I've ever seen used. Reflecting is the process of peeling the skin and subcutaneous fat from the rib cage, using a knife as necessary to separate any bits that want to stay attached.

Jim Clark-Dawe

04-25-2019, 06:33 AM
Thank you everyone! In the end, I've decided just to cut the whole "filleting" business. I hadn't connected it with fish, but now... eek. Upon reflection, it isn't necessary, and it's definitely the wrong word. And jclarkdawe, thank you for the link! Downloaded for future reference.

04-27-2019, 10:22 PM
... "I started the Y-incision, filleted him"...

Is there a better or more accurate way of phrasing this?

I started the Y incision to open his chest...
I started the Y incision to begin his autopsy...
I started the Y incision and exposed the breast bone and rib cage...

Yeah, there are better ways. :)