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.