Article Text

other Versions

Download PDFPDF
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}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


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 …

View Full Text


  • Handling editor Cheok Soon Lee

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval HM Coroner, Clinical Audit Dept Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.