The basic premise of the autopsy is to provide definitive anatomic information regarding a disease or disease process occurring during life, which contributes to the cause of death. In turn, this information may provide beneficial information to the deceased’s family, attending clinicians, and to those interested in the biology of disease.

The autopsy service at UNMC performs autopsies on patients from Nebraska Medicine and referral cases from hospitals around the region.  Approximately 125-150 hospital autopsies are performed annually.  The number of autopsies is more than sufficient for residents to independently perform more than the required by the American Board of Pathology.  Most cases are performed by a single resident and are not shared with another resident.

Residents are assigned 8 weeks of autopsy core rotation during their PGY1 year.  When all PGY1 residents have completed their core autopsy training, the service transitions to a rotating coverage system for the remainder of the year, where residents take turns being assigned cases. This ensures continued exposure to autopsies throughout training, and evenly distributes the autopsy workload among all residents.  Weekend on call autopsies also occur. 

A Resident's day-to-day on the Autopsy Rotation

The autopsy rotation in the pathology department starts in the first year. PGY1 residents spend two months dedicated to the autopsy. In the first month, the PGY1 resident is supervised by an upper level resident who along with supervising faculty trains them in all the aspects of autopsy including gross examination, dissection techniques, and formulating the report. This rotation gives an excellent opportunity to learn the basic histology and sharpen grossing technique. Brain cutting conferences are performed under the supervision of board-certified neuropathologists. Residents also present interesting cases during autopsy conference, which happens once every four weeks.