Autopsies in pandemics - a perspective on barriers and benefits. Is it time for a revival?

Apameh Khatam-Lashgari, Mikkel Jon Henningsen, Kristine Boisen Olsen, Christina Jacobsen, Jane Preuss Hasselby, Bonnie Colville-Ebeling, Jytte Banner


Influenza virus and coronavirus pandemics regularly sweep the globe, at great cost of health and economy. Our aim was to conduct a PubMed search for autopsy studies on influenza and coronavirus to investigate the contribution of autopsies during pandemics, focussing on autopsy methods and procedures and the role of autopsy findings in pandemics. The retrieved autopsy studies generally relied on microscopy, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), immunostaining and electron microscopy. Most were small and reported on lung effects, including diffuse alveolar damage (DAD), pneumonia and tracheobronchitis. Antibiotic therapy has diminished a role for bacterial pneumonia, whereas obesity is an emerging risk factor. Autopsy studies have provided new insights into coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) treatments like anti-coagulative therapy. Unfortunately, autopsies during pandemics are hampered by lack of guidelines, facilities and expertise for handling potentially infectious corpses and by widely varying recommendations for personal protective equipment and procedures. The Department of Forensic Pathology, at the Forensic Institute, at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark has, in collaboration with the Department of Pathology, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, initiated a prospective observational study on COVID-19-related deaths encompassing postmortem imaging, standardized autopsy procedures/reporting and extensive tissue sampling for histological, chemical, microbiological and genetic analysis. The study involves a diverse array of research groups at the University of Copenhagen, and the clinical field.

TidsskriftAPMIS - Journal of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology
Udgave nummer7
Sider (fra-til)324-339
Antal sider16
StatusUdgivet - jul. 2021


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