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Coroner Describes Tools of the Autopsy Trade

June 6, 1995 GMT

A rundown on the equipment typically used in autopsies, as presented in the O.J. Simpson murder trial by Los Angeles County Coroner Lakshmanan Sathyavagiswaran:

Saw: Small electric version used to cut through rib cage and to open skull.

Shears: Similar to garden shears, also used to cut through ribs.

Chisel: Used to pry up pieces of the skull.

Large knife: White-handled with large blade, used to cut out larger organs such as the brain and liver.

Small knife: To remove neck organs such as the tongue and larynx.


Syringe: Similar in appearance to a turkey baster, used to collect urine from the bladder.

Ladle: A 6-ounce measuring tool that looks like a soup ladle, used to scoop blood from the chest cavity and to collect stomach contents.

Pliers: To strip open the lining of the chest cavity to get to the rib cage, and to remove projectiles from the spine.

Forceps: Similar to tweezers, used to pick up blood vessels and to dissect small parts of organs.

Sharp-end scissors: Used to open the stomach and lungs.

Round-end scissors: Used to open the intestines.

Scalpel: General purpose cutting tool, similar to a surgeon’s scalpel.

Ruler: A scientific ruler that has measurements in inches and centimeters.