Objectives: To report the methods and findings of two complete autopsies of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) positive individuals who died in Oklahoma (United States) in March 2020.
Methods: Complete postmortem examinations were performed according to standard procedures in a negative-pressure autopsy suite/isolation room using personal protective equipment, including N95 masks, eye protection, and gowns. The diagnosis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was confirmed by real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction testing on postmortem swabs.
Results: A 77-year-old obese man with a history of hypertension, splenectomy, and 6 days of fever and chills died while being transported for medical care. He tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on postmortem nasopharyngeal and lung parenchymal swabs. Autopsy revealed diffuse alveolar damage and chronic inflammation and edema in the bronchial mucosa. A 42-year-old obese man with a history of myotonic dystrophy developed abdominal pain followed by fever, shortness of breath, and cough. Postmortem nasopharyngeal swab was positive for SARS-CoV-2; lung parenchymal swabs were negative. Autopsy showed acute bronchopneumonia with evidence of aspiration. Neither autopsy revealed viral inclusions, mucus plugging in airways, eosinophils, or myocarditis.
Conclusions: SARS-CoV-2 testing can be performed at autopsy. Autopsy findings such as diffuse alveolar damage and airway inflammation reflect true virus-related pathology; other findings represent superimposed or unrelated processes.
Keywords: Acute lung injury; Autopsy; COVID-19; Coronavirus; Diffuse alveolar damage; Pulmonary pathology; SARS-CoV-2.
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