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Autopsy Q&A by Dr. Stöppler

As the cause of death on my mother's death certificate, it reads: Late effects of right basal ganglia cerebral infarction due to arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease. She also had a mass in her left breast. Can you please explain this?

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MedicineNet Expert
Dr. Stöppler
  • The coroner's report states the cause of my sister's death "Intra-abdominal hemorrhage" - what does this term mean please?
  • As the cause of death on my mother's death certificate, it reads: Late effects of right basal ganglia cerebral infarction due to arteriosclerotic cerebrovascular disease. She also had a mass in her left breast. Can you please explain this?
  • I have multiple sclerosis and when I die I would like to donate my body to a medical school. What does this entail, and does it cost money to donate my body?
  • When doing an autopsy, is it possible to test for infection (urinary tract infection, sepsis)?
  • What happens to the internal organs after an autopsy is performed?
  • Do the drawer doors of the cases where the dead bodies are kept in the morgue have handles on the inside just in case? This has crossed my mind a million times over, it must be some weird phobia.
  • Can you tell me what arteriosclerotic cardiovascular disease is and can you tell if this is present from an autopsy? That was the cause of my father's death.
  • I will be 79 yrs old Feb. 18th. My younger sister, aged 75, died this past week, very suddenly. After an autopsy the doctor found an aneurysm on her main aorta. I would like to know if this is this something that runs in the family.
  • When an autopsy is performed, is it done on the whole body?
  • Can an autopsy be performed if an individual has donated his/her organs?
  • Who performs an autopsy?
  • How soon after death does an autopsy need to be performed?
  • Who has access to the information obtained from an autopsy? Can this information (e.g. about hereditary diseases or conditions that may run in our family) be obtained by third parties?
  • Are all autopsies necessarily performed at the hospital where the patient died or received medical treatment? Are there circumstances in which the family can request an autopsy to be performed at a different facility?
  • I have heard of something called cadaver wart. Can someone actually develop a wart from touching a corpse?
  • Does everyone get an autopsy when they die? If not, who determines whether someone should get one?
  • What happens in the case grieving family members disagree as to whether an autopsy should be performed?
  • Is an open casket funeral possible after an autopsy?
  • Are there any circumstances when an autopsy is mandatory?

With a background in Anatomic and Experimental Pathology and teaching of medical students and resident physicians, Dr. Stoppler is excited to be able to provide medical information for the public as a medical editor for MedicineNet.com, a WebMD company.

"The evolution of the field of molecular diagnostics has dramatically influenced the practice of pathology, enabling the precise genetic characterization of tumors and other illnesses," Dr. Stoppler says. "These genetic tests not only increase the accuracy of traditional pathologic diagnosis, but may also provide insights into the choice of therapies that will be most effective in a given situation."

In her free time Dr. Stoppler enjoys volunteering at her children's schools, reading, tennis, scuba diving and cooking.

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Last Editorial Review: 2/21/2007