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Schaller T, Hirschbühl K, Burkhardt K, et al. Postmortem Examination of Patients With COVID-19. JAMA. 2020;323(24):2518–2520. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.8907
Approximately 15% of individuals affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) develop severe disease, and 5% to 6% are critically ill (respiratory failure and/or multiple organ dysfunction or failure).1,2 Severely ill and critically ill patients have a high mortality rate, especially with older age and coexisting medical conditions. Because there are still insufficient data on cause of death, we describe postmortem examinations in a case series of patients with COVID-19.
Between April 4 and April 19, 2020, we conducted serial postmortem examinations in patients with proven severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection who died at the University Medical Center Augsburg (Germany). Autopsies were conducted according to published best practice.3 Specimens from lung, heart, liver, spleen, kidney, brain, pleural effusion, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) were assessed. Postmortem nasopharyngeal, tracheal, bronchial swabs, pleural effusion, and CSF were tested for SARS-CoV-2 by reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction. This study was approved by the local institutional review board, and written informed consent was obtained from next of kin.
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