What Are the Appropriate Collection Procedures If an Autopsy Is Performed for a Suspected Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Case?

Updated: May 21, 2020
  • Author: Medscape Drugs & Diseases; more...
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Postmortem swab specimens for COVID-19 testing should include an upper respiratory tract swab, nasopharyngeal (NP) swab, lower respiratory tract swab, and lung swab from each lung. If NP swab specimens cannot be obtained, acceptable alternatives for upper respiratory swab specimens include an oropharyngeal specimen, or a nasal mid-turbinate swab, or an anterior nares (nasal swab) specimen, or nasopharyngeal wash/aspirate or nasal aspirate specimen.

Separate swab specimens should be obtained for testing of other respiratory pathogens and other postmortem testing.

Formalin-fixed autopsy tissues should be obtained from lung, upper airway, and other major organs.

If only a postmortem NP swab is being collected, individuals in the room during specimen collection should be limited to healthcare personnel obtaining the specimen.

Since collection of NP swab specimens from deceased persons will not induce coughing or sneezing, a negative-pressure room is NOT required if ONLY an NP swab is being collected from the decedent.

In addition to postmortem specimens, any remaining specimens (eg, NP swab, sputum, serum, stool) that may have been collected prior to death should be retained.

Please refer to Interim Guidelines for Collecting, Handling, and Testing Clinical Specimens from Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for more information.

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