Laparoscopic postmortem examination: A minimally invasive approach to the autopsy

Lawrence J. Damore, Rolf F. Barth, Carl D. Morrison, Wendy L. Frankel, W. Scott Melvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Laparoscopic and thoracoscopic autopsies have previously only been performed on an experimental basis to determine their potential usefulness as a substitute for a conventional postmortem examination. We present the case of a patient with an UnusUal variant of malignant melanoma (diffuse melanosis) in whom the immediate cause of death clinically was thought to be fulminant hepatic failure, the etiology of which was unknown. The family was unwilling to consent to a conventional autopsy, but would permit a postmortem examination limited to a 2-cm abdominal incision and removal of a sample of liver. In view of the unanswered clinical questions regarding the cause of the acute hepatic failure and its possible relationship to the diagnosis of diffuse melanosis, we decided that more extensive examination of the abdominal cavity, specifically the liver, was required and that the only way that this could be accomplished was by laparoscopic techniques. Laparoscopic examination of the abdominal cavity revealed multiple melanotic nodules on the surface of the liver and studding the omentum. Multiple liver samples were easily obtained; these revealed massive diffuse necrosis of the liver parenchyma with scattered nodular deposits of dark pigment consistent with melanin. We report the first known case in which a laparoscopic autopsy was used to obtain valuable information that answered clinically relevant questions. Laparoscopic autopsy can offer the a family that is unwilling to consent to a conventional postmortem examination an alternative that can potentially provide answers to clinical questions that otherwise would have been unresolved. (C) 2000 by W.B. Saunders Company.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-98
Number of pages4
JournalAnnals of Diagnostic Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Autopsy
  • Diffuse melanosis
  • Laparoscopy
  • Postmortem

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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