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Autopsy in suspected COVID-19 cases
  1. Brian Hanley1,
  2. Sebastian B Lucas2,
  3. Esther Youd3,
  4. Benjamin Swift4,
  5. Michael Osborn1
  1. 1 Department of Cellular Pathology, Imperial College London NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Histopathology, GKT, Medical school in London, London, UK
  3. 3 Department of Histopathology, Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board, Llantrisant, UK
  4. 4 Forensic Pathology Services, Oxon, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Brian Hanley, Cellular Pathology, Imperial College London NHS Trust, London, UK; brian.hanley1{at}


The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-coronavirus-2 (CoV-2) outbreak in Wuhan, China has now spread to many countries across the world including the UK with an increasing death toll. This will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of suspected coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related deaths at autopsy. The Royal College of Pathologists has responded to this concern with the release of a briefing on autopsy practice relating to COVID-19. The following article is a summary and interpretation of these guidelines. It includes a description of hazard group 3 organisms, the category to which SARS-CoV-2 has been assigned, a brief description of what is currently known about the pathological and autopsy findings in COVID-19, a summary of the recommendations for conducting autopsies in suspected COVID-19 cases and the techniques for making the diagnosis at autopsy. It concludes by considering the clinicopathological correlation and notification of such cases.

  • autopsy pathology
  • lung
  • virus
  • safety
  • diagnosis

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  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it appeared Online First. The abstract has been replaced, and a new sentence and reference added "Standard formalin-fixation inactivates known coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2 is believed to be similarly affected[20]". Several minor text changes have been made throughout.

  • Contributors BH designed and planned the manuscript performed the literature review, wrote the paper and collaborated with other authors in review. SBL, EY and BS reviewed manuscript drafts and contributed several paragraphs. MO designed and planned the manuscript and was involved in review of drafts along with collaborating between coauthors for multidisciplinary input.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.