Postmortem Minimally Invasive Autopsy in Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients at the Bedside: A Proof-of-Concept Study at the ICU

Tobias Lahmer, Gregor Weirich, Stefan Porubsky, Sebastian Rasch, Florian A. Kammerstetter, Christian Schustetter, Peter Schüffler, Johanna Erber, Miriam Dibos, Claire Delbridge, Peer Hendrik Kuhn, Samuel Jeske, Manuel Steinhardt, Adam Chaker, Markus Heim, Uwe Heemann, Roland M. Schmid, Wilko Weichert, Konrad Friedrich Stock, Julia Slotta-Huspenina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Economic restrictions and workforce cuts have continually challenged conventional autopsies. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has added tissue quality and safety requirements to the investigation of this disease, thereby launching efforts to upgrade autopsy strategies. Methods: In this proof-of-concept study, we performed bedside ultrasound-guided minimally invasive autopsy (US-MIA) in the ICU of critically ill COVID-19 patients using a structured protocol to obtain non-autolyzed tissue. Biopsies were assessed for their quality (vitality) and length of biopsy (mm) and for diagnosis. The efficiency of the procedure was monitored in five cases by recording the time of each step and safety issues by swabbing personal protective equipment and devices for viral contamination. Findings: Ultrasound examination and tissue procurement required a mean time period of 13 min and 54 min, respectively. A total of 318 multiorgan biopsies were obtained from five patients. Quality and vitality standards were fulfilled, which not only allowed for specific histopathological diagnosis but also the reliable detection of SARS-CoV-2 virions in unexpected organs using electronic microscopy and RNA-expressing techniques. Interpretation: Bedside multidisciplinary US-MIA allows for the fast and efficient acquisition of autolytic-free tissue and offers unappreciated potential to overcome the limitations of research in postmortem studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number294
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • ICU
  • minimal invasive autopsy
  • postmortem diagnostic


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