Cause of death and significant disease found at autopsy

Niklas Friberg, Oscar Ljungberg, Erik Berglund, David Berglund, Richard Ljungberg, Irina Alafuzoff, Elisabet Englund

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The use of clinical autopsy has been in decline for many years throughout healthcare systems of developed countries despite studies showing substantial discrepancies between autopsy results and pre-mortal clinical diagnoses. We conducted a study to evaluate over time the use and results of clinical autopsies in Sweden. We reviewed the autopsy reports and autopsy referrals of 2410 adult (age > 17) deceased patients referred to two University hospitals in Sweden during two plus two years, a decade apart. There was a decline in the number of autopsies performed over time, however, mainly in one of the two hospitals. The proportion of autopsy referrals from the emergency department increased from 9 to 16%, while the proportion of referrals from regular hospital wards was almost halved. The autopsies revealed a high prevalence of cardiovascular disease, with myocardial infarction and cerebrovascular lesion found in 40% and 19% of all cases, respectively. In a large proportion of cases (> 30%), significant findings of disease were not anticipated before autopsy, as judged from the referral document and additional data obtained in some but not all cases. In accordance with previous research, our study confirms a declining rate of autopsy even at tertiary, academic hospitals and points out factors possibly involved in the decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781–788
JournalVirchows Archiv
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Physiology
  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy


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