J Clin Pathol 52:640-652 doi:10.1136/jcp.52.9.640

Acp. Best practice no 155. Pathological investigation of deaths following surgery, anaesthesia, and medical procedures.

  1. R D Start,
  2. S S Cross
  1. Department of Histopathology, Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospital NHS Trust, Calow, UK.


      The pathological investigation of deaths following surgery, anaesthesia, and medical procedures is discussed. The definition of "postoperative death" is examined and the classification of deaths following procedures detailed. The review of individual cases is described and the overall approach to necropsy and interpretation considered. There are specific sections dealing with the cardiovascular system (including air embolism, perioperative myocardial infarction, cardiac pacemakers, central venous catheters, cardiac surgery, heart valve replacement, angioplasty, and vascular surgery); respiratory system (postoperative pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, pneumothorax); central nervous system (dissection of cervical spinal cord), hepatobiliary and gastrointestinal system; musculoskeletal system; and head and neck region. Deaths associated with anaesthesia are classified and the specific problems of epidural anaesthesia and malignant hyperthermia discussed. The article concludes with a section on the recording of necropsy findings and their communication to clinicians and medicolegal authorities.