Feasibility and safety of ultrasound-guided minimally invasive autopsy in COVID-19 patients

Olga R. Brook, Kimberly G. Piper, Noe B. Mercado, Makda S. Gebre, Dan H. Barouch, Kathleen Busman-Sahay, Carly E. Starke, Jacob D. Estes, Amanda J. Martinot, Linda Wrijil, Sarah Ducat, Jonathan L. Hecht

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objectives: To determine the feasibility and safety of ultrasound-guided minimally invasive autopsy in COVID-19 patients. Methods: 60 patients who expired between 04/22/2020–05/06/2020 due to COVID-19 were considered for inclusion in the study, based on availability of study staff. Minimally invasive ultrasound-guided autopsy was performed with 14G core biopsies through a 13G coaxial needle. The protocol required 20 cores of the liver, 30 of lung, 12 of spleen, 20 of heart, 20 of kidney, 4 of breast, 4 of testis, 2 of skeletal muscle, and 4 of fat with total of 112 cores per patient. Quality of the samples was evaluated by number, size, histology, immunohistochemistry, and in situ hybridization for COVID-19 and PCR-measured viral loads for SARS-CoV-2. Results: Five (5/60, 8%) patients were included. All approached families gave their consent for the minimally invasive autopsy. All organs for biopsy were successfully targeted with ultrasound guidance obtaining all required samples, apart from 2 patients where renal samples were not obtained due to atrophic kidneys. The number, size, and weight of the tissue cores met expectation of the research group and tissue histology quality was excellent. Pathology findings were concordant with previously reported autopsy findings for COVID-19. Highest SARS-CoV-2 viral load was detected in the lung, liver, and spleen that had small to moderate amount, and low viral load in was detected in the heart in 2/5 (40%). No virus was detected in the kidney (0/3, 0%). Conclusions: Ultrasound-guided percutaneous post-mortem core biopsies can safely provide adequate tissue. Highest SARS-CoV-2 viral load was seen in the lung, followed by liver and spleen with small amount in the myocardium.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1263-1271
Number of pages9
JournalAbdominal Radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Autopsy
  • Biopsy
  • COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Gastroenterology
  • Urology


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