Autopsy in the era of advanced cardiovascular imaging

Eur Heart J. 2022 Jul 7;43(26):2461-2468. doi: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac220.


Historically, autopsy contributed to our current knowledge of cardiovascular anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Major advances in the understanding of cardiovascular diseases, including atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease, congenital heart diseases, and cardiomyopathies, were possible through autopsy investigations and clinicopathological correlations. In this review, the importance of performing clinical autopsies in people dying from cardiovascular disease, even in the era of advanced cardiovascular imaging is addressed. Autopsies are most helpful in the setting of sudden unexpected deaths, particularly when advanced cardiovascular imaging has not been performed. In this setting, the autopsy is often the only chance to make the correct diagnosis. In previously symptomatic patients who had undergone advanced cardiovascular imaging, autopsies still play many roles. Post-mortem examinations are important for furthering the understanding of key issues related to the underlying diseases. Autopsy can help to increase the knowledge of the sensitivity and specificity of advanced cardiovascular imaging modalities. Autopsies are particularly important to gain insights into both the natural history of cardiovascular diseases as well as less common presentations and therapeutic complications. Finally, autopsies are a key tool to quickly understand the cardiac pathology of new disorders, as emphasized during the recent coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Keywords: Autopsy; Cardiovascular pathology; Cause of death; Devices; Imaging; Therapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • COVID-19*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / complications
  • Cardiovascular System*
  • Cause of Death
  • Death, Sudden / etiology
  • Humans