Comparison of clinical diagnoses and autopsy findings: Six-year retrospective study

Hyejong Song Marshall, Clara Milikowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Context.-The frequency of autopsies has declined inmost developed countries beginning in the latter half of the 20th century. During this time period the technology of medicine made significant advances; however, it is important to regularly reevaluate the role of the autopsy to confirm suspected diagnoses and identify unsuspected findings. Objective.-To determine what portion of autopsies reveal clinically meaningful unexpected findings. Design.-Reports that included clinical histories of autopsies performed at Jackson Memorial Hospital during the 6 years between 2009 and 2014 were reviewed by 2 pathologists. Each case was classified using the Goldman Classification. Results.-In the given time period, 923 autopsies were performed; 512 patients (55.5%) were adults. A total of 334 cases were subject to review after excluding those with a short (, 1 day) hospital stay, restriction to a single organ or body cavity, and cases referred from other facilities. A total of 33 of 334 cases (9.9%) were identified as class I discrepancy, where the autopsy revealed a discrepant diagnosis with a potential impact on survival or treatment. Critical findings, such as untreated infection (15 of 33 cases; 45.5%), pulmonary embolism (8 of 33 cases; 24.2%), and undiagnosed malignancy (6 of 33 cases; 18.2%), were found in these cases. Major significant findings that had not been clinically detected, whether clinically manageable or not (class I and II), were found in 65 of 334 cases (19.5%). Conclusion.-Despite intensive modern clinical investigations, autopsies continue to reveal major antemortem diagnostic errors in a significant number of cases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1262-1266
Number of pages5
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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