Running a postmortem service--a business case and clinical experience

Pediatr Radiol. 2015 Apr;45(4):501-8. doi: 10.1007/s00247-014-3156-0. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


The purpose of the postmortem examination is to offer answers to explain the cause and manner of death. In the case of perinatal, infant and paediatric postmortem examinations, the goal is to identify unsuspected associated features, to describe pathogenic mechanisms and new conditions, and to evaluate the clinical management and diagnosis. Additionally, the postmortem examination is useful to counsel families regarding the probability of recurrence in future pregnancies and to inform family planning. Worldwide the rate of paediatric autopsy examinations has significantly declined during the last few decades. Religious objections to postmortem dissection and organ retention scandals in the United Kingdom provided some of the impetus for a search for non-invasive alternatives to the traditional autopsy; however, until recently, imaging studies remained an adjunct to, rather than a replacement for, the traditional autopsy. In 2012, Sheffield Children's Hospital National Health Service Foundation Trust set up the service provision of minimally invasive fetal, perinatal and neonatal autopsy, while a postmortem imaging service has been running in Melbourne, Australia, since 2008. Here we summarise the essentials of a business case and practical British and Australian experiences in terms of the pathological and radiologic aspects of setting up a minimally invasive clinical service in the United Kingdom and of developing a clinical postmortem imaging service as a complementary tool to the traditional autopsy in Australia.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Pediatrics / organization & administration*
  • Private Practice / organization & administration*
  • Radiology / organization & administration*
  • United Kingdom