What are the types of high-risk autopsy?

Updated: May 20, 2019
  • Author: Jeffrey S Nine, MD; Chief Editor: Kim A Collins, MD, FCAP  more...
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Many, if not most, high-risk autopsies are known to be such before the autopsy is performed; this is certainly the case in the hospital setting. In North America and Europe, four high-risk agents elicit the greatest concern about the transmission of disease during autopsy: human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob prion. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) would be included among these agents of greatest concern except for the fact that almost all healthcare workers are vaccinated against it; anyone performing autopsies certainly should be vaccinated against HBV.

A more complete list of high-risk infections includes rabies, Hantaan virus infection, West Nile Encephalitis, lymphocytic choriomeningitis, human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I, Ebola virus, Lassa fever, South American hemorrhagic fever, the various encephalitis virus infections, dengue fever, yellow fever, Yersinia pestis infection (plague), typhoid fever, Bartonella infections (ie, catscratch disease, trench fever, Oroya fever), tularemia, anthrax, brucellosis, melioidosis, and meningococcal infection.

There is no universal agreement as to which infections are to be considered high risk; some authorities include many more. In general, diseases other than the initial four listed above are rare, and the few that are not rare are not as serious. For example, catscratch disease is usually self-limited and usually requires no therapy.

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