AIMS--To examine trends in necropsy based research output for a period of 27 years during which there has been a progressive decline in clinical necropsy rates. METHODS--The numbers of necropsy based research papers published between 1966 and 1993 were determined using the CD-Plus Medline computed literature database. RESULTS--The number of necropsy based research papers containing necropsy or a synonym in the title increased by 220% between 1966 and 1993. When papers including necropsy or a synonym in the abstract, but not in the title, were included, the proportion of all indexed papers increased from 0.35% in 1975, when abstracts were first included, to 0.53% in 1993. Analysis of the subject material indicated that necropsy based research has constantly reflected trends and advances in clinical medicine. Neuroscience related research represented the largest subject category which may reflect the difficulties in obtaining human tissue from sources other than necropsy. CONCLUSIONS--The modern necropsy continues to provide valuable information for all clinical and laboratory based disciplines. The decline in clinical necropsy rates would not yet appear to have undermined the contribution of the necropsy to research.