The Value of the Autopsy in Congenital Heart Disease

Marsha H. Kay, Douglas S. Moodie, Richard Sterba, Daniel J. Murphy, Eliot Rosenkranz, Norman Ratliff, Andrea Homa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


We reviewed autopsies in 50 consecutive cases of congenital heart disease between 1980 and 1988. Autopsy results were compared to premortem clinical diagnosis. The patients ranged in age from two days to 66.5 years with a mean age of 6.42 years; 68% were less than one year of age. The most common diagnoses were hypoplastic left heart syndrome in 16 (32%) and ventricular septal defect in five (10%). Other common diagnoses included coarctation of the aorta, hypoplastic right heart syndrome, tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great vessels and tricuspid atresia. No patient had a missed diagnosis that would have changed survival (Class 1). Four (8%) of the patients had one missed major diagnosis that did not change their survival because they were already being symptomatically treated or because no clinical treatment was available (Class 2). The majority of autopsy derived data were missed minor diagnoses that were related [14(28%)-Class 3] or unrelated [12(24%) - Class 4] to the terminal disease process. However, despite the small percentage of autopsy findings that would have directly affected survival, the autopsy provided important additional clinical information in 30 (60%) patients. This information could be used to correct management errors and to develop protocols for prophylaxis against known complications. The pediatric autopsy can provide useful clinical data that may be a guide to altering clinical therapy and is essential in providing genetic counseling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-454
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Pediatrics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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