Frequency and Significance of Pathologic Pulmonary Findings in Postmortem Examinations—A Single Center Experience before COVID-19

Berezowska, Sabina; Schmid, Andreas; Losmanová, Tereza; Trippel, Mafalda; Blank, Annika; Banz, Yara; Jakob, Stephan M.; Langer, Rupert (2021). Frequency and Significance of Pathologic Pulmonary Findings in Postmortem Examinations—A Single Center Experience before COVID-19. Diagnostics, 11(5) MDPI 10.3390/diagnostics11050894

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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has shown the importance of postmortem investigation of deceased patients. For a correct interpretation of the pulmonary findings in this new era, it is, however, crucial to be familiar with pathologic pulmonary conditions observed in postmortem investigations in general. Adequate postmortem histopathological evaluation of the lungs may be affected by suboptimal gross work up, autolysis or poor fixation. Using a standardized preparation approach which consisted in instillation of 4% buffered formaldehyde through the large bronchi for proper fixation and preparing large frontal tissue sections of 1–2 cm thickness after at least 24 h fixation, we comprehensively analyzed postmortem pulmonary findings from consecutive adult autopsies of a two-year period before the occurrence of COVID-19 (2016–2017). In total, significant pathological findings were observed in 97/189 patients (51%), with 28 patients showing more than one pathologic condition. Acute pneumonia was diagnosed 33/128 times (26%), embolism 24 times (19%), primary pulmonary neoplasms 18 times (14%), organizing pneumonia and other fibrosing conditions 14 times (11%), pulmonary metastases 13 times (10%), diffuse alveolar damage 12 times (9%), severe emphysema 9 times (7%) and other pathologies, e.g., amyloidosis 5/128 times (4%).

Pulmonary/cardiopulmonary disease was the cause of death in 60 patients (32%). Clinical and pathological diagnoses regarding lung findings correlated completely in 75 patients (40%). Autopsy led to confirmation of a clinically suspected pulmonary diagnosis in 57 patients (39%) and clarification of an unclear clinical lung finding in 16 patients (8%). Major discrepant findings regarding the lungs (N = 31.16%) comprised cases with clinical suspicions that could not be confirmed or new findings not diagnosed intra vitam. A significant proportion of acute pneumonias (N = 8; 24% of all cases with this diagnosis; p = 0.011) was not diagnosed clinically. We confirmed the frequent occurrence of pulmonary pathologies in autopsies, including inflammatory and neoplastic lesions as the most frequent pathological findings. Acute pneumonia was an important cause for discrepancy between clinical and postmortem diagnostics.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic of Intensive Care
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Pathology > Clinical Pathology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Service Sector > Institute of Pathology

UniBE Contributor:

Berezowska, Sabina Anna, Schmid, Andreas Andreia, Losmanová, Tereza, Trippel, Mafalda Arasceli, Blank, Annika, Banz Wälti, Yara Sarah, Jakob, Stephan, Langer, Rupert


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Isabelle Arni

Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2021 09:45

Last Modified:

02 Mar 2023 23:34

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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