AIMS: The aim of this study is to evaluate whether agreement with autopsy-determined cause of death (COD) increases by use of postmortem CT (PMCT) or PMCT in combination with postmortem sampling (PMS), when compared with clinical assessment only.

METHODS: This prospective observational study included deceased patients from the intensive care unit and internal medicine wards between October 2013 and August 2017. The primary outcome was percentage agreement on COD between the reference standard (autopsy) and the alternative postmortem examinations (clinical assessment vs PMCT or PMCT+PMS). In addition, the COD of patient groups with and without conventional autopsy were compared with respect to involved organ systems and pathologies.

RESULTS: Of 730 eligible cases, 144 could be included for analysis: 63 underwent PCMT without autopsy and 81 underwent both PMCT and autopsy. Agreement with autopsy-determined COD was significantly higher for both PMCT with PMS (42/57, 74%), and PMCT alone (53/81, 65%) than for clinical assessment (40/81, 51%; p=0.007 and p=0.03, respectively). The difference in agreement between PMCT with PMS and PMCT alone was not significant (p=0.13). The group with autopsy had a significantly higher prevalence of circulatory system involvement and perfusion disorders, and a lower prevalence of pulmonary system involvement.

CONCLUSION: PMCT and PMS confer additional diagnostic value in establishing the COD. Shortcomings in detecting vascular occlusions and perfusion disorders and susceptibility to pulmonary postmortem changes could in future be improved by additional techniques. Both PMCT and PMS are feasible in clinical practice and an alternative when autopsy cannot be performed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-265
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Pathology
Issue number4
Early online date29 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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