A recent prospective study published in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology concluded that routine histopathologic examination lacked value. We disagreed with this assertion as we have found routine microscopic examination to be fruitful by documenting gross findings and by revealing interesting and unexpected findings.
We designed a retrospective study to determine the benefit and cost of routine histopathologic examination at our institution. Forensic autopsy cases from January 2004 through June 2007 with lethal gross findings were reviewed to determine the number of cases in which microscopic examination provided the definitive cause of death. Cost was based on the average number of hematoxylin-eosin-stained slides per autopsy.
One case was found in which the microscopic findings determined the correct cause of death despite compelling history and the initial impression from the autopsy findings. The cost of routine histopathologic examination during this period was approximately $39,000.
We conclude that routine histopathologic examination has value. Despite having a low yield, the information it provides is nonetheless important, and its cost is not prohibitive. Furthermore, there are benefits gained from routine microscopic examination as exemplified in the 2 case reports presented in this article.