What Is a Cadaver Wart?

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD
    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dennis Lee, MD

    Dr. Lee was born in Shanghai, China, and received his college and medical training in the United States. He is fluent in English and three Chinese dialects. He graduated with chemistry departmental honors from Harvey Mudd College. He was appointed president of AOA society at UCLA School of Medicine. He underwent internal medicine residency and gastroenterology fellowship training at Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

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Ask the experts

I have heard of something called cadaver wart. Can someone actually develop a wart from touching a corpse?

Doctor's response

No, the term cadaver wart does not refer to an actual wart (a raised lesion on the skin caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infection). Rather, cadaver wart is a term that has been used to refer to a raised, wartlike growth on the hand due to tuberculosis, typically occurring in pathologists or laboratory workers who have been involved with postmortem examinations (autopsies), or processing of surgically removed tissue from a person infected with tuberculosis.

A cadaver with unsuspected tuberculosis was once a major hazard for pathologists and others in the autopsy room. Since the bacteria that cause tuberculosis do not penetrate intact skin, an accidental cut or other trauma to the skin while performing an autopsy on a person who had tuberculosis can lead to direct inoculation of the skin with the infectious agent, resulting in the lesion known as cadaver wart.

A cadaver wart is known by a number of other names including:

  • anatomical tubercle,
  • anatomical wart,
  • dissection tubercle,
  • necrogenic wart,
  • postmortem tubercle,
  • prosector's tubercle,
  • prosector's wart,
  • tuberculosis cutis verrucosa, and
  • verruca necrogenica.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

"Investigations and Autopsies"
Public Health Law Program
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


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Reviewed on 8/31/2017

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