Cardiac hypertrophy at autopsy

Virchows Arch. 2021 Jul;479(1):79-94. doi: 10.1007/s00428-021-03038-0. Epub 2021 Mar 19.


Since cardiac hypertrophy may be considered a cause of death at autopsy, its assessment requires a uniform approach. Common terminology and methodology to measure the heart weight, size, and thickness as well as a systematic use of cut off values for normality by age, gender, and body weight and height are needed. For these reasons, recommendations have been written on behalf of the Association for European Cardiovascular Pathology. The diagnostic work up implies the search for pressure and volume overload conditions, compensatory hypertrophy, storage and infiltrative disorders, and cardiomyopathies. Although some gross morphologic features can point to a specific diagnosis, systematic histologic analysis, followed by possible immunostaining and transmission electron microscopy, is essential for a final diagnosis. If the autopsy is carried out in a general or forensic pathology service without expertise in cardiovascular pathology, the entire heart (or pictures) together with mapped histologic slides should be sent for a second opinion to a pathologist with such an expertise. Indication for postmortem genetic testing should be integrated into the multidisciplinary management of sudden cardiac death.

Keywords: Autopsy; Cardiovascular diseases; Diagnostic criteria; Hypertrophy; Quality in pathology.

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Cardiomegaly / genetics
  • Cardiomegaly / mortality
  • Cardiomegaly / pathology*
  • Cardiomegaly / physiopathology
  • Cause of Death
  • Genetic Testing
  • Humans
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Organ Size
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Terminology as Topic