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Correspondence
Autopsy cranial tissue examination rarely provides valuable information unless there is a specific prompt to open the head
  1. Simon Kim Suvarna1,
  2. Mary Helen McNamara2,
  3. Alexandra Louise Scholes2,
  4. Scarlett Sophie Strickland2
  1. 1Department of Histopathology Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  2. 2University of Sheffield Medical School, Beech Hill Hospital, Sheffield, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Simon Kim Suvarna, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Glossop Road, Sheffield S10 2JF, UK; s.k.suvarna{at}shef.ac.uk

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Introduction

It is clear that the consented hospital autopsy, designed to answer questions of pathology in the days before modern investigations, has all but disappeared.1 ,2 The situation was likely hastened by the scandals at Alder Hey and Bristol.3 Yet, one of the notable modulations to the consent autopsy work, appearing in the last 10 years, has been the sensitive evolution/enhancement to the consent form which allows relatives to define areas that may/may not be examined postmortem. In this regard, the thorax and abdomen appear often to be acceptable, more so than cranial tissues.

This falling rate of UK consent autopsies leaves (aside from forensic cases) the coroner's autopsy as the mainstay of autopsy pathology—being largely unchanged practice for at least the last century. Its very foundation lies in the systematic examination of external and internal body tissues, with appropriate samples for specialist investigations.4 Many proponents of the autopsy maintain that the only reliable autopsy is the ‘full’ autopsy, and in this regard most coroner's autopsies examine head, thorax and abdomen as the standard; with additional tests (toxicology, microbiology, serology and so on) on occasion.5 ,6

However, the coroner's autopsy examination remit is broad, allowing pathologists to define which …

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