Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

What happens to the internal organs after an autopsy is performed?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Söppler, MD
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD


After the organs are examined by the pathologist in their normal anatomical location, the organs to be examined further (usually the organs of the chest and abdomen, and sometimes the brain) are removed for further study. At this point the organs usually are separated from each other and further dissected (cut open) to reveal any abnormalities, such as tumors, on the inside. Small samples of normal and abnormal tissue typically are taken from all organs and then prepared as slides for examination under a microscope. At the end of an autopsy, the incisions made in the body are sewn closed. The organs may be returned to the body prior to closing the incision or they may be retained for teaching, research, and diagnostic purposes. It is permissible to ask about this when giving consent for an autopsy to be performed. In most cases, relatives of the deceased can also stipulate that the organs be returned to the body for burial, if they so choose.

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Last Editorial Review: 2/9/2007

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