Autopsy findings of COVID-19 in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2022 Dec;18(4):516-529. doi: 10.1007/s12024-022-00502-4. Epub 2022 Sep 1.


Clinical features of COVID-19 range from mild respiratory symptoms to fatal outcomes. Autopsy findings are important for understanding COVID-19-related pathophysiology and clinical manifestations. This systematic study aims to evaluate autopsy findings in paediatric cases. We searched PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane Database Reviews. We included studies that reported autopsy findings in children with COVID-19. A total of 11 studies (24 subjects) were included. The mean age of patients was 5.9 ± 5.7 years. Grossly, there was pericardial and pleural effusion, hepatosplenomegaly, cardiomegaly, heavy soft lung, enlarged kidney, and enlarged brain. The autopsy findings of the lungs were diffuse alveolar damage (78.3%), fibrin thrombi (43.5%), haemorrhage (30.4%), pneumonia (26%), congestion and oedema (26%), angiomatoid pattern (17.4%), and alveolar megakaryocytes (17.4%). The heart showed interstitial oedema (80%), myocardial foci of band necrosis (60%), fibrin microthrombi (60%), interstitial and perivascular inflammation (40%), and pancarditis (30%). The liver showed centrilobular congestion (60%), micro/macrovesicular steatosis (30%), and arterial/venous thrombi (20%). The kidney showed acute tubular necrosis (75%), congestion (62.5%), fibrin thrombi in glomerular capillaries (37.5%), and nephrocalcinosis, mesangial cell hyperplasia, tubular hyaline/granular casts (25% each). The spleen showed splenitis (71.4%), haemorrhage (71.4%), lymphoid hypoplasia (57.1%), and haemophagocytosis (28.6%). The brain revealed oedema (87.5%), congestion (75%), reactive microglia (62.5%), neuronal ischaemic necrosis (62.5%), meningoencephalitis (37.5%), and fibrin thrombi (25%). SARS-CoV-2 and CD68 were positive by immunohistochemistry in 85.7% and 33.3% cases, respectively. Autopsy findings of COVID-19 in children are variable in all important organs. It may help in better understanding the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2.

Keywords: Autopsy; Children; Correlation; Pathophysiology; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fibrin
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lung / pathology
  • Necrosis / pathology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Thrombosis* / pathology


  • Fibrin