Laparoscopic vs conventional autopsy. A promising perspective

Arch Surg. 1995 Apr;130(4):407-9. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.1995.01430040069014.


Objective: To analyze the sensitivity and specificity of laparoscopic autopsy when compared with the ulterior performance of conventional postmortem examination.

Design: Consecutive sampling, case-series study.

Setting: A general community referral medical center and the local institute of forensic medicine.

Participants: A consecutive sample of 25 fresh cadavers (< 24 hours old) of victims of vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, and in-hospital deaths.

Interventions: After insufflation with carbon dioxide, laparoscopy of the abdominal cavity and inspection of the retroperitoneal area was accomplished. Following, a conventional postmortem examination was performed and the findings of both procedures were recorded, compared, and analyzed.

Main outcome measures: Prior to the beginning of the study, it was hypothesized that laparoscopic autopsy would reach an overall sensitivity and specificity of at least 85% and enable accurate inspection of the abdominal cavity and retroperitoneum in the search for the trauma-related cause of death in trauma victims or the cause of death for in-hospital patients.

Results: There was a 100% correlation of both procedures in all accidental cases. The sensitivity of laparoscopic autopsy was 93% for intra-abdominal lesions, with an overall sensitivity of 91%. For the retroperitoneal area, the sensitivity was 58%. The sensitivity for the retroperitoneum dropped, owing to an intrarenal tumor and an extraperitoneal rectal tear in the small sample of inhospital deaths. The specificity of laparoscopic autopsy reached 94%.

Conclusions: Laparoscopic autopsy is accurate and easy to perform. It is highly sensitive for intra-abdominal abnormalities, especially in trauma victims. Laparoscopic autopsy is minimally invasive and not disfiguring, rendering it easier to accept among mourning families. It should be strongly considered when consent for a conventional autopsy is lacking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy / methods*
  • Cause of Death
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Wounds and Injuries