Health professionals' and coroners' views on less invasive perinatal and paediatric autopsy: a qualitative study

Arch Dis Child. 2018 Jun;103(6):572-578. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2017-314424. Epub 2018 Feb 8.


Objective: To assess health professionals' and coroners' attitudes towards non-minimally and minimally invasive autopsy in the perinatal and paediatric setting.

Methods: A qualitative study using semistructured interviews. Data were analysed thematically.

Results: Twenty-five health professionals (including perinatal/paediatric pathologists and anatomical pathology technologists, obstetricians, fetal medicine consultants and bereavement midwives, intensive care consultants and family liaison nurses, a consultant neonatologist and a paediatric radiologist) and four coroners participated. Participants viewed less invasive methods of autopsy as a positive development in prenatal and paediatric care that could increase autopsy rates. Several procedural and psychological benefits were highlighted including improved diagnostic accuracy in some circumstances, potential for faster turnaround times, parental familiarity with imaging and laparoscopic approaches, and benefits to parents and faith groups who object to invasive approaches. Concerns around the limitations of the technology such not reaching the same levels of certainty as full autopsy, unsuitability of imaging in certain circumstances, the potential for missing a diagnosis (or misdiagnosis) and de-skilling the workforce were identified. Finally, a number of implementation issues were raised including skills and training requirements for pathologists and radiologists, access to scanning equipment, required computational infrastructure, need for a multidisciplinary approach to interpret results, cost implications, equity of access and acceptance from health professionals and hospital managers.

Conclusion: Health professionals and coroners viewed less invasive autopsy as a positive development in perinatal and paediatric care. However, to inform implementation a detailed health economic analysis and further exploration of parental views, particularly in different religious groups, are required.

Keywords: autopsy; less invasive; paediatric; perinatal; post mortem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Autopsy / economics
  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Autopsy / standards
  • Autopsy / statistics & numerical data
  • Clinical Competence
  • Coroners and Medical Examiners / psychology*
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Parents / psychology
  • Pathology, Clinical / education
  • Pathology, Clinical / standards
  • Perinatal Death* / etiology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Radiology / education
  • Radiology / standards
  • Religion
  • United Kingdom