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Autopsy rates were falling for years. Then Covid-19 came along

Updated: Mar 29, 2023

Advances in medical imaging have reduced the need for autopsies. But the procedure is proving vital amid Covid-19. Since 1950, pathologists in the U.S. have gone from conducting autopsies on nearly half of all patients who died in hospitals to less than 5 percent of them. In part, that’s because advances in imaging technology have given physicians more confidence in their diagnoses. But “our ability to determine the cause of death is pretty bad unless you do an autopsy,” says Mary Fowkes, a pathologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. She says about a quarter of autopsies reveal something the clinician did not know about the patient’s cause of death.

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