Cytodiagnosis in the autopsy suite: A tool for improving autopsy quality and resident education

Vicki J. Schnadig, Claudia P. Molina, Judith F. Aronson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


• Context. - Despite several publications attesting to its accuracy and value, cytology is rarely used for preliminary autopsy diagnosis in the United States. Postmortem cytodiagnosis has the potential to increase the accuracy and specificity of the provisional and final autopsy diagnoses, increase resident interest in cytodiagnostic techniques, and direct pathologists to request pertinent special studies, such as microbial cultures and special stains. Objective. - To assess and illustrate the value of cytodiagnostic techniques for improving autopsy quality assurance and resident education. Design. - Eighty-five samples were evaluated from 49 nonconsecutive autopsies. Sixty-five focal lesions were sampled by direct scraping. Diffuse lung consolidation was sampled by fine-needle aspiration (20 samples). Smears and cytocentrifuge preparations of fine-needle aspirations were routinely stained by both Papanicolaou and Romanowski methods. Cytologic diagnoses were compared with final autopsy diagnoses, and both cytology and pertinent histology were reviewed. Results. - Clinical or radiographic antemortem site-specific diagnoses had been made in 28 (33%) of the 85 samples. A definite diagnosis was made by postmortem cytology in 68 (80%) of 85 samples, and these diagnoses could contribute to provisional autopsy diagnosis in 46 instances (68%). Resident and faculty enthusiasm for the use of cytology in the autopsy suite has increased during the 7 years following the study. Case examples illustrating the benefits of postmortem cytology are provided. Conclusions. - Postmortem cytology benefits both autopsy quality and resident education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1056-1062
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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