Clinical review: What is the role for autopsy in the ICU?
Critical Care volume 14, Article number: 221 (2010)
The availability of advanced diagnostic tools has grown in the past decades. Hence, a growing false belief exists that everything is known about the patient before death. Moreover, intensivists may wrongly believe that autopsy findings do not contribute to the understanding of pathophysiological events. The immediate result is that few ICUs nowadays assemble enough autopsy cases with new and interesting clinicopathological features. However, we believe that, at least in tertiary ICUs, autopsies remain a valuable examination, as a tool for quality control, as a way of establishing gold standards for diagnostic examinations and as an aid in developing guidelines for treatment and diagnosis of diseases frequently encountered in the ICU. Finally, due to the ever-expanding armamentarium of immunosuppressive agents, a growing list of opportunistic infections is discovered during autopsy. The present article gives an overview of autopsy studies conducted in the ICU and discusses the pros and cons of performing these.
During the past decades, autopsy rates have been declining worldwide. The non-forensic, clinical autopsy rate at large hospitals in the United States dropped from 41% in 1964 to 22% in 1975 . In spite of this decline, the post-mortem examination remains clinically relevant for time-honoured reasons: the information obtained helps to understand diseases; it provides essential feedback for the clinician and leads to quality assessment and education; and data from it are important for epidemiologists .
We analyzed reports that compare post-mortem cause of death with clinical diagnosis. The discrepancies between these two were classified into four categories according to Goldman's criteria (Table 1) . This article has the goal of convincing intensivists of the role of autopsy and gives an overview of the studies performed in the ICU.
Reasons for the decline in autopsy rate
The costs for post-mortem analysis cannot be charged to family members since autopsy findings are irrelevant for the management of their relative. Hospital administrators are not easily convinced to spend money on procedures lacking an immediate impact on patient management and just for teaching purposes [4, 5]. In Belgium, the cost of an autopsy is estimated at 473 euros and is carried by the social security system. In London, the cost of one autopsy is 850 euros when the costs for building a mortuary are taken into account.
In the US, some authors claim that the most important factor explaining the decrease in the autopsy rate is that a minimum number of autopsies is no longer needed for accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. Some clinicians also seem to be more reluctant to seek consent out of fear of litigation since autopsy can reveal missed diagnoses .
Communication with patients' relatives
Because of the growing impact of the opinions of patients and their relatives, physicians are often forced to discuss necropsy with them. As a result, the autopsy rate in France has markedly declined after 1994 (from 15% to 3%), the year that bioethics law impelled physicians to inform relatives about the performance of a post-mortem examination . However, it is not clear what the attitude of relatives is. In a Swedish study, 84% reported accepting an autopsy for themselves and 80% for a next of kin . In a study performed in a surgical ICU, relatives refused 2 of 27 autopsy requests. Nevertheless, the autopsy rate was only 25% . This demonstrates that the low autopsy rate reflects a low autopsy request rate on the part of clinicians more than refusal by relatives.
Autopsies are less likely to be performed when not recommended strongly by the treating physician. In one study based on physician and surrogate responses, the expected autopsy rate was 42%, while the actual autopsy rate was 23% . Training physicians how to recommend autopsies may increase autopsy rates.
Reluctance of pathologists
Another reason for the decline in autopsy rates is the growing reluctance of pathologists to perform autopsies. Several studies analyzing the delay of pathology reports show a long delay (up to 90 days) . This indicates a lack of interest in autopsy findings, both from pathologists and clinicians. The reasons for this are many. First, pathologists are experiencing an increasing workload. Secondly, since infectious diseases are rising, pathologists fear the risk of infection . Finally, autopsies now contribute little to the scientific output of the pathology department, with only 6% of the published articles being based on autopsy findings .
It can be argued that the sensitivity of modern diagnostic methods would reduce diagnostic errors to an extent that autopsies would be unnecessary. However, this reasoning was not confirmed by a study by Goldman and colleagues , who studied the time course of diagnostic errors during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and found no differences among the three periods: in all three eras about 10% of the autopsies revealed a class I missed diagnosis (Table 1).
Analyses of diagnostic error rates, adjusted for case mix, country and autopsy rate, yielded stable figures for major missed diagnoses throughout the past three decades . A possible explanation for the stability of the error rates is increased case selection by clinicians. Since fewer autopsies are performed, clinically challenging cases may be more likely to be selected for autopsy. However, several prospective studies performed in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s have shown that clinicians have a poor ability to identify cases that will yield 'diagnostic surprises' [12–14]. A study performed by Cameron and colleagues  showed that 15% of main diagnoses were not confirmed by autopsy in cases where physicians said they would have requested an autopsy. The rate was similar at 14% in cases where physicians said they would not have requested an autopsy.
The lack of a decrease in the proportion of missed diagnoses during the past decades does not indicate a lack of progress in medical science since the types of missed diagnoses varied in the different eras . Rather, it suggests that our clinical and technical investigations are less sensitive for new disease entities.
Why do autopsies still play an important role in the ICU?
Autopsies can be used to check the accuracy of existing diagnostic tools
The imperfect correlation between pre- and post-mortem findings illustrates that existing diagnostic tools do not always provide 100% certainty about the existence of a specific disease entity . Autopsies yield important information on the rates of discrepancies between clinical diagnosis and histology. A few studies investigating this have been performed in the ICU. Combes and colleagues  performed the largest, prospective study, corroborating the results of other studies performed in the ICU; namely, that the overall type I error rate averages 10%. A study performed by Roosen and colleagues  with an autopsy rate of 93% revealed that fungal infection, cardiac tamponade, abdominal haemorrhage, and myocardial infarction are the diagnoses most frequently missed in a medical ICU.
Autopsies allow the accuracy of existing diagnostic tools to be checked. One example may clarify this matter. The role of Candida spp. in the airways of critically ill patients was examined in a prospective, controlled autopsy study performed in our medical ICU . A survey by Azoulay and colleagues  demonstrated that 24% of French intensivists treat Candida spp. when found in the airways of mechanically ventilated patients. However, we did not find Candida pneumonia at autopsy despite the frequent pre-mortem occurrence of Candida spp. in the respiratory tract of critically ill patients. This finding argues against the use of expensive antifungal treatment in mechanically ventilated patients solely on the basis of isolation of Candida spp. from tracheal aspirates and broncho-alveolar lavage fluid. Recent published guidelines of the Infectious Diseases Society of America on the treatment of invasive candidiasis in intensive care reinforce this .
Autopsies are useful for understanding pathophysiology
There are several examples of the value of autopsy in elucidating pathophysiological mechanisms of disease in the ICU. Extensive observational data have shown a consistent, almost linear relationship between blood glucose levels in hospitalized patients and adverse clinical outcomes, even in patients without established diabetes . It has never been entirely clear, however, whether glycaemia serves as a mediator of adverse outcomes or merely as a marker of illness. Several early studies suggested a clinical benefit from strict glucose control during critical illness . Recently, a large multicentre study called into question the beneficial findings of tight glycaemic control . Autopsy might be of help in elucidating the potential toxic effects of hyperglycaemia on various organs. Vanhorebeek and colleagues  used post-mortem liver samples from the original Leuven study  and showed that mitochondrial function in hepatocytes was retained in patients with tight glycaemic control compared to the patients in the conventional treatment group. There was, however, no differential effect on mitochondrial function of myocytes. This autopsy report could encourage clinicians to perform histological and molecular studies in order to clarify the mechanisms of glucose toxicity and to what extent tight glycaemic control should be achieved.
Autopsies are useful in understanding epidemiology and describing new disease entities
An illustrative example of the value of autopsy in explaining certain epidemiological and pathophysiological features of new disease entities is the description of pathology specimens from patients dying of confirmed 2009 influenza A H1N1 infection. Autopsy studies have shown that the main pathological changes associated with 2009 influenza A H1N1 infection are located in the lungs, identifying three distinct histological patterns. Ongoing aberrant immune responses in lung specimens could be identified in patients dying of 2009 influenza A H1N1 infection . Also, concurrent bacterial infection was found in autopsy specimens of 22 of 77 (29%) patients, including 10 Streptococcus pneumoniae infections. These autopsy findings underscore both the importance of pneumococcal vaccination for persons at increased risk for pneumococcal pneumonia and the need for early recognition of bacterial pneumonia in persons with influenza .
Autopsies continue to serve as an invaluable educational tool
Due to the ever-expanding armamentarium of immunosuppressant and immunomodulating drugs, there is a growing list of potentially lethal and difficult to diagnose opportunistic infections. Patients with these uncommon infections often present in an advanced state of their disease, the conditions of which are often discovered only post-mortem. The autopsy has an educational role in describing the histological features of these advanced disease states and their complications.
Moreover, the autopsy can be an integral part of the safety analysis of new drugs. Due to detailed brain autopsies, natalizumab, a novel antibody directed to the adhesion molecule a4 integrin, was identified as a risk factor for development of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy in patients with Crohn's disease or multiple sclerosis treated with this drug .
Shojania and colleagues  studied the effect of increasing autopsy rate on the incidence of major diagnostic errors. They found that major errors decreased at a rate of 12.4% for every 10% increase in autopsy rate, and class I errors decreased at a rate of 17.4% for every 10% increase in autopsy rate. This points to the important educational value of post-mortem examination and we believe that the decreasing autopsy rate is contrary to progress in medical diagnostics. We think that medical students should follow at least some autopsies to underline the importance of the necropsy.
However, it needs to be stressed that the procedure needs to be done according to certain criteria and ideally attended by the intensivist that took care of the patient. The autopsy has always been a valid monitor of clinical diagnostic performance if it meets four necessary conditions, according to Saracci : a high necropsy rate (28 to 50%); specified and stable conditions under which necropsies are performed; calculation of sensitivity and specificity rather than overall accuracy; and an estimate of the error in post-mortem diagnoses. Durning and Cation  showed that autopsy cases were frequently evaluated as a valuable educational experience by attending physicians.
New, innovative techniques might improve the diagnostic yield of autopsies
A very intriguing field of interest is molecular investigations at autopsy. Even with normal structural findings, molecular analysis of frozen sections can ultimately resolve 'unsolved' cases of sudden death. Ackerman and colleagues  report the results of post-mortem molecular testing and the identification of a novel mutation in a young woman who died in the ICU after a near-drowning secondary to what turned out to be a form of congenital long-QT syndrome. Because of this molecular finding at autopsy, an asymptomatic sibling carrying the same mutation was able to receive prophylactic treatment. For sudden cardiac deaths the protocols for autopsy recommend freezing a piece of spleen for molecular analysis.
Autopsies might protect physicians from subsequent malpractice litigation
Among intensivists, the mistaken belief that sophisticated diagnostic tests have rendered the autopsy obsolete combined with reluctance to ask bereaved families to consent to autopsy has substantially reduced interest in the procedure. Moreover, there is a misperception that autopsies increase physicians' exposure to malpractice claims. Educational efforts should overcome these barriers (Table 2) . There must be more attempts to coordinate autopsies with the schedules of requesting physicians.
Clinicopathological conferences should take place on a regular (for example, monthly) basis. This means a joint effort of both intensivists and pathologists. The clinicians need to inform the pathologist about the patient's pre-mortem status, the expected findings and the unsolved questions. The pathologist needs to understand the importance of the results of autopsy in medical development. Autopsies can lead to an increased awareness for rare and emerging diseases and eventually result in better daily clinical practice.
Information for relatives
The information gained by autopsy findings can help relatives to understand the cause of death of their loved ones. Sadly enough, autopsy results are often not communicated to them. In a study performed by Burton and colleagues , 78% of relatives reported that autopsy results were not discussed.
Overview of recent studies performed in the ICU
Table 3 lists clinical autopsy studies in the ICU setting. The amount of major missed diagnoses of class I varied between 3 and 16%. There was no significant difference in the type of hospital (referral or general district hospital) or the type of unit (surgical, medical or mixed). Most of the studies were retrospective in design, except for the study by Combes and colleagues . They prospectively analyzed autopsies performed on patients who died in a tertiary care medical-surgical ICU during 3 years. Monthly clinical-pathological meetings were held to compare clinical and autopsy diagnoses. During the study, 1,492 patients were admitted, of whom 315 (21%) died during their ICU stay and 167 (53%) were autopsied. Clinicians most frequently erroneously overdiagnosed cancer, endocarditis, myocardial infarction and pneumonia. The intensivist missed 171 diagnoses.
In all studies, infections were most frequently missed. Medical development has led to new treatments, such as new cytotoxic agents, and organ and stem cell transplantation, which have led to an increased number of viral and fungal infections with unusual clinical presentations [3, 16, 33–35]. In a study performed at our medical ICU, fungal infections occurred in 16% of deceased patients. In 30% of all cases, the diagnosis was not considered premortem . Veress and Alufuzoff  found a significant increase in infectious diseases in autopsy patients, from 27% in the 1970s to 32% in the 1980s, and an increase in undiagnosed infections of 30%. Gerain and colleagues  studied the causes of death in oncology patients who died in an ICU. In 23.5% of all deaths the primary cause was infectious disease, with fungal disease in 87.5%. Cancer itself was the direct cause of death in only 10%. Silfvast and colleagues  showed that 62% of class I diagnostic errors were found in patients with pneumonia or other already known infections. This finding emphasises the difficulty of diagnosing unexpected or new pathogens in patients with existing infections.
Pulmonary embolism remains one of the major missed diagnoses throughout the past three decades (8.9%) . In autopsied patients who died from pulmonary embolism, the diagnosis was unsuspected in 14 of 20 (70%). Most of these patients had advanced associated disease . As Gold man postulates, the persistent high rate of missed pulmonary embolism is more a reflection of the high mortality of the pathology when this diagnosis is missed . The availability of new diagnostic techniques can also give misleading information. The frequency of a false-positive diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (when the clinician ascribed the death to pulmonary embolism not confirmed at autopsy) rose from 33% in 1959 to 44% in 1999/2000 .
Intra-abdominal and retroperitoneal bleeding and more general acute abdominal complications are underdiagnosed in the ICU. Altered mental status, narcotic medication, immunosuppression and mechanical ventilation make the bedside diagnosis difficult. Angiography or computed tomography are often not an option in these unstable patients and bedside ultrasound is frequently inconclusive. Papadakis and colleagues  studied the diagnostic discrepancy in veteran soldiers receiving mechanical ventilation. Thirty-nine percent of the class I errors were potentially treatable abdominal disorders. In two-thirds, the errors arose because clinicians failed to consider the diagnosis, and not because the clinicians had misleading or inconclusive information from diagnostic procedures.
Over the past decades, autopsy rates have been declining and studies on autopsy findings are scarce. We are convinced that the performance of necropsy is necessary for many reasons. First, studies have shown that despite technical improvements, the frequency of missed disorders has not diminished compared to the 1960s and 1970s. The reason is the advent of several new pathologies with more opportunistic infections in an era of HIV and influenza A H1N1 pandemics, new immunosuppressive treatments for transplant recipients and auto-immune diseases. Second, we argue that the post-mortem examination can be useful for relatives, especially if the cause of death is not clear. We regret the fact that autopsy results are often not reported to the relatives. Moreover, clinicians and pathologists do not communicate well with each other. Input from the clinician can motivate the pathologist to find new, rare or unsuspected diseases.
The costs of post-mortem examination are negligible compared to the overall costs of ICU stay. Since the results may improve our daily practice, we should not consider the costs as a reason to forestall autopsies.
We ask that the importance of post-mortem examinations be reconsidered, since autopsy remains the ultimate tool of accountability for clinical evaluation and management of new and old diseases.
Roberts WC: The autopsy: its decline and a suggestion for its revival. N Engl J Med 1978, 299: 332-338. 10.1056/NEJM197808172990704
Veress B, Alufuzoff I: A retrospective analysis of clinical diagnoses and autopsy findings in 3,042 cases during two different time periods. Hum Pathol 1994, 25: 140-145. 10.1016/0046-8177(94)90269-0
Goldman L, Sayson R, Robbins S, Cohn L, Bettmann M, Weisberg M: The value of the autopsy in three medical eras. N Engl J Med 1983, 308: 1000-1005. 10.1056/NEJM198304283081704
Esteban A, Fernández-Segoviano P: The autopsy as a tool to monitor diagnostic errors. Intensive Care Med 1999, 25: 343-344. 10.1007/s001340050853
Estaban A, Fernández-Segoviano P: Is autopsy dead in the ICU? Intensive Care Med 2003, 29: 522-525.
Chariot P, Witt K, Pautot V, Porcher R, Thomas G, Zafrani ES, Lemaire F: Declining autopsy rate in a French hospital: physician's attitudes to the autopsy and use of autopsy material in research publications. Arch Pathol Lab Med 2000, 124: 739-745.
Sanner MA: Comparison of public attitudes toward autopsy, organ donation and anatomic dissection. A Swedish survey. JAMA 1994, 271: 284-288. 10.1001/jama.271.4.284
Mosquera D, Goldman M: Surgical audit without autopsy: tales of the unexpected. Ann R Coll Surg Engl 1993, 75: 115-117.
Burton E, Phillips R, Covinsky K, Sands L, Goldman L, Dawson N, Connors A, Landefeld C: The relation of autopsy rate to physicians' beliefs and recommendations regarding autopsy. Am J Med 2004, 117: 255-261. 10.1016/j.amjmed.2004.01.028
Lemaire F: Should the autopsy be resuscitated? Intensive Care Med 2003, 29: 518-521.
Shojania KG, Burton EC, McDonald KM, Goldman L: Changes in rates of autopsy-detected diagnostic errors over time. JAMA 2003, 289: 2849-2856. 10.1001/jama.289.21.2849
Heasman MA, Lipworth L: Accuracy of Certification of Cause of Death. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office; 1966.
Britton M: Diagnostic errors discovered at autopsy. Acta Med Scand 1974, 196: 203-210.
Cameron HM, McGoogan E: A prospective study of 1152 hospital autopsies, I: inaccuracies in death certification. J Pathol 1981, 133: 273-283. 10.1002/path.1711330402
Cameron HM, McGoogan E, Watson H: Necropsy: a yardstick for clinical diagnoses. Br Med J 1980, 281: 985-988. 10.1136/bmj.281.6246.985
Tai DH, El Bilbessi H, Tewari S, Mascha EJ, Wiedemann HP, Arroliga AG: A study of consecutive autopsies in a medical ICU. A comparison of clinical cause of death and autopsy diagnosis. Chest 2001, 119: 530-536. 10.1378/chest.119.2.530
Combes A, Mokhtar M, Couvelard A, Trouillet J, Baudot J, Hénin D, Gilbert C, Chastre J: Clinical and autopsy diagnoses in the intensive care unit. Arch Intern Med 2004, 164: 389-392. 10.1001/archinte.164.4.389
Roosen J, Frans E, Wilmer A, Knockaert DC, Bobbaers H: Comparison of premortem clinical diagnoses in critically ill patients and subsequent autopsy findings. Mayo Clin Proc 2000, 75: 562-567. 10.4065/75.6.562
Meersseman W, Lagrou K, Spriet I, Maertens J, Verbeken E, Peetermans WE, Van Wijngaerden E: Significance of the isolation of candida species from airway samples in critically ill patients: a prospective autopsy study. Intensive Care Med 2009, 35: 1526-1531. 10.1007/s00134-009-1482-8
Azoulay E, Cohen Y, Zahar J, Garrouste Orgeas M, Adrie C, Moine P, de Lassence A, Timsit J: Practices in non-neutropenic ICU patients with Candida -positive airway specimens. Intensive Care Med 2004, 30: 1384-1389.
Pappas P, Kauffman C, Andes D, Benjamin D, Calancra T, Edwards J, Filler S, Fisher J, Kulleberg B, Ostrosky-Zeichner L, Reboli A, Rex J, Walsh T, Sobel J: Clinical practice guidelines for the management of candidiasis: 2009 update by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis 2009, 48: 503-535. 10.1086/596757
Comi RJ: Glucose controle in the intensive care unit: a roller coaster ride or a swinging pendulum? Ann Intern Med 2009, 150: 809-811.
Berghe G, Wouters P, Weekers F, Verwaest C, Bruyninckx F, Schetz M, Vlasselaers D, Ferdinande P, Lauwers P, Bouillon R: Intensive insulin therapy in the critically ill patients. N Engl J Med 2001, 345: 1359-1367. 10.1056/NEJMoa011300
NICE-SUGAR Study Investigators, Finfer S, Chittock DR, Su SY, Blair D, Foster D, Dhingra V, Bellomo R, Cook D, Dodek P, Henderson W, Hébert P, Heritier S, Heyland D, McArthur C, McDonald E, Mitchell I, Myburgh J, Norton R, Potter J, Robinson B, Ronco J: Intensive versus conventional glucose control in critically ill patients. N Engl J Med 2009, 360: 1283-1297. 10.1056/NEJMoa0810625
Vanhorebeek I, De Vos R, Mesotten D, Wouters P, De Wolf-Peeters C, Berghe G: Protection of hepatocyte mitochondrial ultrastructure and function by strict blood glucose control with insulin in critically ill patients. Lancet 2005, 365: 53-59. 10.1016/S0140-6736(04)17665-4
Mauad T, Hajjar L, Callegari G, da Silva L, Schout D, Galas F, Alves V, Melheiros D, Auler J, Ferreira A, Borsato M, Bezerra S, Gutierrez P, Caldini E, Pasqualucci C, Dolhinikoff M, Saldiva P: Lung pathology in fatal novel human influenza A (H1N1) infection. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2009, 181: 72-79. 10.1164/rccm.200909-1420OC
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Bacterial coinfections in lung tissue specimens from fatal cases of 2008 pandemic influenza A (H1N1) - United States, May-August 2009. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2009. [http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm58e0929a1.htm]
Van Assche G, Van Ranst M, Sciot R, Dubois B, Vermeire S, Noman M, Verbeeck J, Geboes K, Robberecht W, Rutgeerts P: Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy after natalizumab therapy for Crohn's disease. N Engl J Med 2005, 353: 362-368. 10.1056/NEJMoa051586
Saracci R: Is necropsy a valid monitor of clinical diagnosis performance? BMJ 1991, 303: 898-900. 10.1136/bmj.303.6807.898
Durning S, Cation L: The educational value of autopsy in a residency training program. Arch Intern Med 2000, 160: 997-999. 10.1001/archinte.160.7.997
Ackerman MJ, Tester DJ, Porter CJ, Edwards WD: Molecular diagnosis of the inherited long-QT syndrome in a woman who died after near-drowning. N Engl J Med 1999, 341: 1121-1125. 10.1056/NEJM199910073411504
Shojania K, Burton E: The vanishing nonforensic autopsy. N Engl J Med 2008, 358: 873-875. 10.1056/NEJMp0707996
Nadrous HF, Afessa B, Pfeifer E, Peters SG: The role of autopsy in the intensive care unit. Mayo Clin Proc 2003, 78: 947-950. 10.4065/78.8.947
Pastores S, Dulu A, Voigt L, Raoof N, Alicea M, Halpern N: Premortem clinical diagnoses and postmortem autopsy findings: discrepancies in critically ill cancer patients. Crit Care 2007, 11: R48. 10.1186/cc5782
Goldman L: Diagnostic advances - the value of the autopsy. 1912-1980. Arch Pathol Lab Med 1984, 108: 501-505.
Gerain J, Sculier JP, Malengeaux A, Ryckaert C, Thémelin L: Causes of deaths in an oncologic intensive care unit: a clinical and pathological study of 34 autopsies. Eur J Cancer 1990, 26: 377-381. 10.1016/0277-5379(90)90237-N
Silfvast T, Takkunen O, Kolho E, Andersson L, Rosenberg P: Characteristics of discrepancies between clinical and autopsy diagnoses in the intensive care unit: a 5-year review. Intensive Care Med 2003, 29: 321-324.
Stein PD, Henry JW: Prevalence of acute pulmonary embolism among patients in a general hospital and at autopsy. Chest 1995, 108: 978-981. 10.1378/chest.108.4.978
Kirch W, Shapiro F, Fölsch UR: Health care quality: misdiagnosis at a university hospital in five medical eras. J Public Health 2004, 12: 154-161. 10.1007/s10389-004-0038-1
Papadakis MA, Mangione CM, Lee KK, Kristof M: Treatable abdominal pathologic conditions and unsuspected malignant neoplasms at autopsy in veterans who received mechanical ventilation. JAMA 1991, 265: 885-887. 10.1001/jama.265.7.885
Dimopoulos G, Piagnerelli M, Berré J, Salmon Z, Vincent J-L: Post mortem examination in the intensive care unit: still useful? Intensive Care Med 2004, 30: 2080-2085. 10.1007/s00134-004-2448-5
Maris C, Martin B, Creteur J, Remmelink M, Piagnerelli M, Salmon I, Vincent J-L, Demetter P: Comparison of clinical and post-mortem findings in intensive care unit patients. Virchows Arch 2007, 450: 329-333. 10.1007/s00428-006-0364-5
Mort TC, Yeston NS: The relationship of pre-mortem diagnoses and postmortem findings in a surgical intensive care unit. Crit Care Med 1999, 27: 299-303. 10.1097/00003246-199902000-00035
Podbregar M, Voga G, Kirved B, Skale R, Pareznik R, Gabrscek L: Should we confirm our clinical diagnostic certainly by autopsies? Intensive Care Med 2001, 27: 1750-1755. 10.1007/s00134-001-1129-x
Twigg S, McCrirrick A, Sanderson P: A comparison of post mortem findings with post hoc estimated clinical diagnoses of patients who die in a United Kingdom intensive care unit. Intensive Care Med 2001, 27: 706-710. 10.1007/s001340100903
Fernández-Segviano P, Lázaro A, Estaban A, Rubio JM, Iruretagoyena JR: Autopsy as quality assurance in the intensive care unit. Crit Care Med 1988, 16: 683-685. 10.1097/00003246-198807000-00007
Ong A, Cohn S, Cohn K, Jaramillo D, Parbhu R, McKenney M, Barquist E, Bell M: Unexpected findings in trauma patients dying in the intensive care unit: results of 153 consecutive autopsies. J Am Coll Surg 2002, 194: 401-406. 10.1016/S1072-7515(02)01123-7
Al-Saidi F, Diaz-Granados N, Messner H, Herridge M: Relationship between premortem and postmortem diagnosis in critically ill bone marrow transplantation patients. Crit Care Med 2002, 30: 570-573. 10.1097/00003246-200203000-00012
We thank Professor Dr S Vanderschueren for thoroughly reading the article and giving additional suggestions.
WM reports receiving a grant from Pfizer for investigational research in fungal diseases.
GDeV, EM and WM contributed equally in developing the design and concept of the article. GDeV and EM wrote the article and WM critically reviewed the article and made some changes. The authors have no financial interest in this article.
Authors’ original submitted files for images
Below are the links to the authors’ original submitted files for images.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
De Vlieger, G.Y.A., Mahieu, E.M.J.L. & Meersseman, W. Clinical review: What is the role for autopsy in the ICU?. Crit Care 14, 221 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1186/cc8925
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Autopsy Finding
- Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy