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What’s the autopsy rate in the US?

Autopsied deaths have declined from a rate of 19.3% in 1972 to 8.5% in 2007, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics. Deaths due to external causes were far more likely to be autopsied than deaths caused by disease, even though 91% of deaths are due to disease.  One potential reason for the change: in 1971 the Joint Commission dropped its hospital accreditation standard requiring a 20-25% autopsy rate for hospital deaths.

Source: Hoyert DL. The changing profile of autopsied deaths in the United States, 1972-2007. NCHS [National Center for Health Statistics] Data Brief, No. 67, Aug. 2011. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db67.pdf

Aug, 28, 2012 Update  Related resource: Breslow JM. More deaths go unchecked as autopsy rate falls to “miserably low” levels. PBS Frontline, Postmortem, Aug. 8, 2012. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/criminal-justice/post-mortem/more-deaths-go-unchecked-as-autopsy-rate-falls-to-miserably-low-levels/

Burton EC and Collins KA. Autopsy rate and physician attitudes toward autopsy. Medscape Reference, Mar. 21, 2012. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1705948-overview#a1  [Free registration may be required to view]

Posted by AHA Resource Center, (312) 422-2050, rc@aha.org

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