0
We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
Retry
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
Retry
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
JAMA Patient Page |

Autopsy FREE

Sharon Parmet, MS, Writer; Cassio Lynm, MA, Illustrator; Richard M. Glass, MD, Editor
JAMA. 2003;289(21):2894. doi:10.1001/jama.289.21.2767.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

An autopsy, sometimes called a postmortem (after death) examination, is a thorough physical examination of the body after death to determine the cause of death and the presence of any other diseases. Autopsies are performed by physicians trained in pathology, the medical specialty that deals with the study of disease through the evaluation of tissues and body fluids. Forensic autopsies, which are required to investigate deaths resulting from violence or suspicious circumstances, are usually performed by a government coroner or medical examiner. The June 4, 2003, issue of JAMA includes an article about uncovering missed or incorrect diagnoses through autopsies.

AUTOPSY PROCEDURES

At the beginning of an autopsy, the exterior of the body is examined. Notes and photographs may be taken to document any important findings. The body may be x-rayed or scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for problems like fractures or tumors. The doctor will then make incisions (cuts) in the body in order to remove and examine the internal organs. In some cases, the brain may be removed and examined. Small pieces of tissue may be collected for examination under a microscope to determine if there is any disease. Body fluids may be tested for the presence of any poisonous or harmful substances, a procedure known as toxicology.

AUTOPSY PERMISSIONS

When the cause of death is unknown, or if foul play is suspected in causing an individual's death, an autopsy may be required. Autopsies performed for these legal reasons do not require the consent of the family. When performed for medical reasons, autopsies require permission from family members or a legal guardian. It is important to know that performance of an autopsy need not affect timing of the funeral nor does it preclude an open casket. The incisions made during an autopsy are not visible to family members who view the body later.

VALUE OF AUTOPSIES

Autopsies are the best way to determine the cause of death and can provide valuable information on why a person died. Information gathered during an autopsy can also help physicians better recognize disease in other patients. Because of this, autopsies are regarded as an important educational resource for doctors to learn about the most serious diseases—those that cause death.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

INFORM YOURSELF

To find this and previous JAMA Patient Pages, go to the Patient Page link on JAMA's Web site at http://www.jama.com. Many are available in English and Spanish.

The JAMA Patient Page is a public service of JAMA. The information and recommendations appearing on this page are appropriate in most instances, but they are not a substitute for medical diagnosis. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, JAMA suggests that you consult your physician. This page may be photocopied noncommercially by physicians and other health care professionals to share with patients. Any other print or online reproduction is subject to AMA approval. To purchase bulk reprints, call 718/946-7424.

Sources: College of American Pathologists, American Society for Clinical Pathology

Topic: DIAGNOSIS

Tables

References

CME
Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.

Multimedia

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

224 Views
0 Citations

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Collections
PubMed Articles
Jobs
JAMAevidence.com

Care at the Close of Life: Evidence and Experience
Autopsy, Organ or Body Donation, and Funeral Arrangements

The Rational Clinical Examination: Evidence-Based Clinical Diagnosis
Original Article: Does This Patient Have Ventilator-Associated Pneumonia?

×