Ultrasonographic autopsy (echopsy): a new autopsy technique

Virchows Arch. 2002 Jun;440(6):635-9. doi: 10.1007/s00428-002-0607-z. Epub 2002 Jan 31.


Autopsy has been one of the most important techniques for the development of modern medicine, mainly during the nineteenth century and the first half of last century. However, in the last few years, the number of autopsies performed in hospitals has dramatically decreased all over the world. This loss of interest can be attributed both to important advances in other diagnostic and therapeutic techniques and to the fear of malpractice suits. Several groups have tried to overcome this problem, developing different autopsy techniques, one of which is needle autopsy. Most authors using this technique have acknowledged that it is difficult to obtain material from certain organs and lesions, which makes its diagnostic reliability worse than that of conventional autopsy. To overcome this drawback, our team has recently developed a modification of needle autopsy, called ultrasonographic autopsy or echopsy, in which samples are obtained under ultrasonographic control. We report the results of the first 100 cases of echopsy performed in our hospital, comparing this technique with conventional autopsy performed on all the corpses. The concordance rate for the cause of death and the main pathological diagnosis between echopsy and classical autopsy was 83% in our series, which makes echopsy a feasible and reliable alternative to conventional autopsy in cases in which families refuse to give their consent for classical autopsy or in cases of infectious diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ultrasonography