Green Discoloration of Human Postmortem Brains: Etiologies and Mechanisms of Discoloration

Jared T. Ahrendsen, Hemant Varma*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


A variety of gross discolorations of human postmortem brains is occasionally encountered and can have diagnostic implications. We describe 3 cases of green discoloration of the human brain observed on postmortem examination. Two patients who succumbed shortly after administration of methylene blue (MB) showed diffuse green discoloration that was detectable as early as 24 hours and was seen for at least 48 hours after MB administration. Green discoloration was largely in cortical and deep gray matter structures with relative sparing of the white matter. In contrast, a patient with severe hyperbilirubinemia who died after intracerebral hemorrhage showed localized bright green bile stained brain parenchyma in the areas surrounding the hemorrhage. We highlight the distinct patterns of discoloration in different causes of green brain discoloration, including MB, bile staining, and hydrogen sulfide poisoning. Recognition of these patterns by practicing pathologists can be used to differentiate between these etiologies and allow correct interpretation in both the medical and forensic autopsy settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)135-140
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • brain discoloration
  • forensic pathology
  • methylene blue
  • neuroautopsy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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