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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • By Dr. Murray Feingold: Autopsies can uncover beneficial information

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  • Autopsies have always been a part of medicine. A great deal of knowledge has been gained as the result of autopsies.
    The results of an autopsy confirm or refutes the patient’s clinical diagnosis. If a diagnosis was not known, it could be determined by an autopsy.
    Autopsies can also benefit the family in many ways. It can show that their loved one was treated properly and the diagnosis was correct. Or, it can uncover a diagnosis that was not suspected that may have genetic ramifications for the family.
    Many medical advances have been made because of the findings present on autopsies. Examples are AIDS and Lyme disease.
    Unfortunately, the number of autopsies done today has significantly decreased. At one time, for a hospital to be accredited, it had to complete a certain number of autopsies. This is no longer necessary.
    However, modern medical technology can now obtain much of the same information that was garnered from an autopsy.
    For example, MRIs, CT scans and other scanning procedures can explore almost every part of the human body and uncover the cause or causes of a patient’s illness. A good example of how helpful scanning procedures can be was demonstrated in the findings published in a recent article.
    Researchers described the effectiveness of determining the cause of unexpected deaths by the use of virtual autopsy. The researchers utilized computed tomography angiography, or CT angiography, which also evaluates the blood vessels. In the article, the findings using this methodology were compared with the findings present on traditional medical autopsies.
    Fifty patients who died unexpectedly initially had a virtual autopsy with CT angiography, and then a medical autopsy was performed. Results showed that of the 336 diagnoses present in the patient’s clinical records, 93 percent of the diagnoses were confirmed by CT angiography and 80 percent were confirmed by medical autopsy.
    Sixteen new diagnoses were also made by both methods including coronary artery blockage and the presence of a pulmonary embolism.
    Although virtual autopsy utilizing CT angiography is equal to traditional autopsies when doing autopsies on individuals who died unexpectedly, it does have limitations when doing autopsies on people who have died from cancer-related diseases.
    There are still situations in which traditional medical autopsies are needed to answer questions that virtual autopsies cannot provide.
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    Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.

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