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Autopsy Service

About Us

Location: 509 Clinical Science Building
Hours: 8:00am to 5:00pm Mon Ė Fri; Closed weekends
Office: (409) 772-2859
Morgue: (409) 772-2810
Fax: (409)772-9350

Our Mission and Goals

  • To perform autopsies on UTMB hospital patients, and TDCJ inmates as dictated by state law and family wishes;
  • To determine cause of death, describe response to treatment, and identify clinically occult diseases that may contribute to morbidity or mortality;
  • To provide feedback of autopsy findings to clinicians by way of written reports and conference presentations;
  • To monitor and report quality improvement and risk management issues;
  • To train and educate health care professionals at all levels;
  • To support clinical and basic science research by providing discarded autopsy material to IRB-approved investigators studying human diseases;
  • To coordinate and complete disposition of decedents.

Specialties Services Provided

Pathology services offered by the Autopsy Service include

General Pathology

(general adult pathology with specialized study of different organ systems gastrointestinal, kidney, lung, heart, etc.) Pathology provides a scientific foundation for clinical medicine, basic sciences and patient care. Pathology is the study of disease; it deals with all aspects of disease including structural and functional changes during the disease process, and the underlying causes and mechanisms of disease.

Pediatric Pathology

stillborn or newborn infants, children under the age of 18) Pathologists experienced in perinatal pathology perform pediatric autopsies. This includes fetuses, newborns and children. The placenta, fetal membranes and umbilical cord are studied in all autopsies.

Neuropathology

(brain, spinal cord and nervous system). Neuropathology determines all pathologic findings involving the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and muscle. The Neuropathology faculty examines brains and spinal cords from all complete autopsies performed.

Forensic Pathology

UTMB Autopsy Service pathologists have experience in certain forensic (Medicolegal cases. Our faculty members have been appointed Deputy Medical Examiners in Galveston County, and we have a close working relationship with the Galveston County Medical Examiners (GCMEO). When needed, consultation will be obtained from forensic pathologists as GCMEO.

Clinical Laboratory Services

Complete or limited autopsy includes certain in-house laboratory tests that are routinely performed at UTMB, when judged medically necessary by the pathologist. Included are tests for bacterial or viral infection, tumor markers, diabetes or other abnormalities of blood chemistry, or toxicology. Several tests, such as asbestos testing, or molecular genetic testing, are not routinely included.

Criteria for Requesting an Autopsy

It is UTMB policy that an autopsy is requested on all non-medicolegal inpatient deaths IHOP 9.15.2. Instances in which autopsy might be particularly important are listed below:

  • To explain unknown & unanticipated medical complications
  • When the cause of death or major diagnosis is unknown
  • To provide reassurance to the family
  • Deaths during or following medical/surgical procedures
  • Death of patients participating in clinical trials
  • Unexpected/unexplained deaths which appear to be from natural causes
  • Natural deaths when medicolegal jurisdiction has been waived (DOA; Less 24 hour admits)
  • Deaths resulting from high-risk infectious and contagious disease
  • All obstetric deaths

    w All peri-natal and pediatric deaths
  • To disclose a known or suspected illness which may affect survivors, or organ transplant recipients (e.g. hepatitis, AIDS, TB)

Uses of the Autopsy Report


Communication of autopsy findings to clinicians and families.

Provisional and final autopsy reports are sent to clinicians involved in the decedentís care. It is expected that physicians will communicate these results to family members. Autopsy staff is available for presenting cases at Morbidity and Mortality or other conferences.

Mortality and Autopsy Rates

Data is collected monthly for each clinical service:

  • Data is used to identify opportunities for improvement in individual departmentís autopsy rate, and to fulfill accreditation requirements for residency programs.
  • Data is submitted monthly to the Hospitalís Quality Management Department and included for review with other institutional data during the monthly Hospital Quality of Care Committee.

Random Case Review

Quarterly, 10% of finalized autopsy reports are reviewed by faculty for clarity, correctness and consistency between gross and microscopic diagnosis. This data is provided to the attending pathologist and resident for review and process improvement.

Turnaround Times:

Data for Provisional and Final Autopsy Diagnosis turnaround times is collected. This data is used to ensure prompt reporting of autopsy findings to clinical staff and the medical record. Interested clinicians and others are notified of the Provisional Autopsy Diagnoses within twenty-four hours. Required turnaround time for Provisional Diagnosis is twenty-four hours; for Final Anatomic Diagnosis is thirty working days unless the case is complicated, which extends the turnaround time to sixty working days.

How to obtain an Autopsy Report


Physicians:

Hard copies of provisional and final reports will be distributed to attending faculty. Abbreviated final reports area available on EPIC. To obtain a complete copy of the final autopsy report, physician may call the autopsy office, x22859.

Family Members

Families may receive a copy of the final report from the treating physician in family conference to discuss the results. Alternatively, family members may get a copy of the final report from Health Information Management (HIM) (there will be a charge). For any questions, you can contact HIM at X21965.

 

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