The postmortem examination. Scientific necessity or folly?

JAMA. 1975 Aug 4;233(5):441-3.


Review of 252 autopsies on adult inpatients showed substantial differences between the major postmortem findings and the clinical diagnoses in 30 cases (11.9%). The clinical errors in at least half of these patients were of academic interest only. Errors in the diagnosis of malignant neoplasm occurred in 29 (25.7%) of 113 patients with cancer; however, all but three (2.7%) were of academic interest only. The results indicate that current diagnostic techniques may have decreased the value of the "routine" autopsy. Greater stress should be placed on the postmortem examination in selected cases rather than in a fixed percentage of deaths.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autopsy* / standards
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis*
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Quality of Health Care