What role does autopsy have in the understanding of pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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A challenge in understanding the real disease has been that autopsy studies have found an equal number of patients diagnosed with pulmonary embolism at autopsy was were initially diagnosed by clinicians. [23, 25] This has led to estimates of between 650,000 to 900,000 fatal and nonfatal venous thromboembolic events occurring in the US annually. The incidence of venous thromboembolism has not changed significantly over the last 25 years. [23] Capturing the true incidence going forward will be challenging because of the decreasing rate of autopsy. In a longitudinal, 25-year prospective study from 1966-1990, autopsy rates dropped from 55% to 30% over the study period. [23] Current trends would suggest a continued decline in autopsy rate.

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