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Postmortem studies in the contemporary pediatric intensive care unit*

von Dessauer, Bettina MD; Velozo, Luis MD; Benavente, Carmen MD; Bobenrieth, Fernando MD; Bongain, Jazmina MD; Irazuzta, José MD

Pediatric Critical Care Medicine: November 2011 - Volume 12 - Issue 6 - p 617-621
doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3182071266
Feature Articles

Objectives: To describe the implementation of an educational program that achieved high compliance with autopsy requests and consents in a pediatric intensive care unit. To evaluate the concordance between clinical diagnoses and autopsy findings and to identify patient characteristics in which postmortem diagnosis elucidated the primary disease process.

Design: Retrospective, observational study.

Setting: A pediatric intensive care unit in a tertiary care teaching hospital.

Patients: All pediatric intensive care unit patients with autopsy reports from 2000 to 2005.

Interventions: An educational program and protocol were initiated in 1995–1996 to raise awareness and formalize the process for autopsy request. From 2000 to 2005, data were collected from medical records and pathology department autopsy reports. Premortem and postmortem diagnoses were compared utilizing the modified Goldman's classification. The associations of Goldman's classification with age of patients and length of stay were explored.

Measurements and Main Results: After the educational program was instituted, an autopsy rate of >50% was attained compared to 20%–30% in previous years (p < .05). From 2000 to 2005, 139 autopsies were performed. In 111 patients (79.8%), complete concordance of premortem and postmortem diagnoses was found; in 22 cases (16%), there was no concordance and in six cases the postmortem studies failed to explain the mechanism of death. Autopsies provided new and pertinent findings in 47.5% of all studies, with histologic information accounting for 58% of them. A relationship between short length of stay and the presence of autopsy findings elucidating the main disease process was found (p < .05).

Conclusions: It is feasible to produce a sustainable increase in the rate of postmortem studies within an organization. Autopsy results added new information to almost half of the patients, particularly those who died soon after admission. A pediatric intensive care unit strategy to increase and maintain compliance with autopsy requests is an important practice with favorable clinical and educational repercussions.

From the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (BvD, CB, FB, JB), Hospital Roberto del Río and the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile; Department of Pathology (LV), Hospital Roberto del Rio, Santiago, Chile; Department of Pediatrics (JI), University of Florida, Wolfson Children's Hospital, Jacksonville, FL.

The authors have not disclosed any potential conflicts of interest.

Address requests for reprints to: Bettina von Dessauer, MD, PICU, Hospital Roberto del Rio, Zañartu 1085, Independencia, Santiago, Chile. E-mail: OR

©2011The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies