NCHS: Autopsy Rates Declined from 1972 to 2007

However, the cause-of-death distribution of autopsied deaths changed over the period

THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. autopsy rates declined between 1972 and 2007, with deaths due to external causes increasingly more likely to be determined by autopsy than deaths due to diseases over the period, according to a report published Aug. 4 by the National Center for Health Statistics.

The U.S. Department of Human and Health Services used mortality data from the National Vital Statistics System between 1972 and 2007 to examine changes in the autopsy rate and in the distribution of those autopsied by age and cause.

The percentage of deaths for which an autopsy was performed declined from 19.3 percent in 1972 to 8.5 percent in 2007. In addition, the percentage autopsied declined with age, from 60 percent at 15 to 24 years to 11 percent at 55 to 64 years to less than 5 percent at 65 to 74 years. The percentage of autopsies performed for deaths due to disease conditions decreased from 79 percent in 1972 to 46 percent in 2007. The percentage of autopsies performed for deaths due to external causes increased from 19 percent in 1972 to 50 percent in 2007. Autopsied deaths were increasingly concentrated in the 1 to 34 and 35 to 64 age groups.

"Variation in autopsy patterns has implications for which deaths may have a more complete and conclusive cause-of-death determination," the authors write.

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