Classic Autopsy Techniques

The review by Rossle (1) remains the most comprehensive text on classic autopsy techniques and their variations and combinations. The techniques of Albrecht, Fischer, Ghon, Heller, Letulle, Nauwerck, Rokitansky, Virchow, and Zenker, among others, are described. The review is written in German and is not readily available. For a comprehensive English text with abundant references on autopsy techniques and related matters, readers should consult the manual Autopsy—Performance and Practice, compiled by the College of American Pathologists

(2). Four principal autopsy techniques can be distinguished:

TECHNIQUE OF R. VIRCHOW Organs are removed one by one. This method has been used most widely, often with some modifications. Originally, the first step was to expose the cranial cavity and, from the back, the spinal cord, followed by the thoracic, cervical, and abdominal organs, in that order.

TECHNIQUE OF C. ROKITANSKY This technique is characterized by in situ dissection, in part combined with the removal of organ blocks. Only second-hand descriptions are available. The term "Rokitansky's technique" is used erroneously by many pathologists to designate the removal techniques by Ghon and Letulle, as described in the next paragraphs.

TECHNIQUE OF A. GHON Thoracic and cervical organs, abdominal organs, and the urogenital system are removed as organs blocks ("en bloc" removal). Modifications of this technique are now widely used.

TECHNIQUE OF M. LETULLE Thoracic, cervical, abdominal, and pelvic organs are removed as one organ block ("en masse" removal) and subsequently dissected into organ blocks

(3). This technique requires more experience than the other methods but has the great advantage that the body can be made available to the undertaker in less that 30 min without having to rush the dissection. Unfortunately, the organ mass is awkward to handle.

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