In English autopsy study, heart imaging has 92% accuracy finding cause of death

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Pathologists and radiologists at the University of Leicester in the U.K. have shown that postmortem CT with targeted coronary angiography (PMCTA) is capable of replacing most traditional autopsies performed in England and Wales following deaths by natural causes.

The study was published in The Lancet, and the school’s press office has posted a feature article on it.

The researchers expect this result to have a major influence on the future of autopsy practice, not only in the U.K. but also across the world,” the article reports.

The team’s key advance: coming up with a way to use air to circulate standard contrast agent in the coronary artery lumens and ventricular cavities.

The Leicester team applied their PMCTA technique to a cohort of 240 deaths that were ordered investigated by the coroner. They succeeded in identifying cause of death in 92 percent of cases and met the burden of proof required by coroner, according to the university.

“In the United Kingdom there is increasing interest in using imaging as a replacement for invasive autopsy to establish the medical ‘cause of death’ for HM (Her Majesty’s) Coroners’ investigations,” the article author explains. “This reflects our increasingly multicultural society, driving an argument against the relatively high autopsy rates in England and Wales on medical, cultural and religious grounds.”

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