Lung autopsy

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Author: Mikael Häggström [notes 1]
Not including larger pulmonary vessels (instead summarized at Autopsy - Other thorax).

Basic autopsy cutting

In non-forensic Autopsy:

  • Dissect the pulmonary arterial system, from the pulmonary trunk and including at least segmental arteries.
  • Dissect the bronchial tree, at least to segmental bronchi. Check for obstructions.
  • Make some additional sections through the lung parenchyma. Squeeze at each side to detect any pus and edema.[1]
Further information: Autopsy

Gross evaluation

Gross pathology of miliary "millet seed-like" tuberculosis.
  • A spongy consistency, and watery and frothy liquid being pressed from the parenchyma, indicates simple edema.[2]
  • A spongy consistency and reddish (blood-stained) fluid being pressed from the parenchyma, indicates acute congestion.[2]
  • A brownish or dark reddish color of the fluid pressed from the parenchyma indicates chronic congestion, and may not have a spongy consistency.[2]


Generally 10% neutral buffered formalin.

See also: General notes on fixation

Microscopic evaluation

Siderophages[notes 2] (one indicated by white arrow), indicating chronic left heart failure. Also pulmonary congestion and lymphocytes, consistent with heart failure.

Look for the most common pathologic lung findings:[3][4]

  • Edema and congestion (often together), indicating left sided heart failure:
  • Acute congestion manifests as alveolar capillaries being engorged with blood, as well as associated alveolar septal edema and/or focal intra-alveolar hemorrhage.[5]
  • Chronic congestion manifests as thickened and fibrotic septa, and alveolar spaces containing numerous siderophages[notes 2].[5]
  • Pneumonia: Inflammatory cells
  • Tuberculosis in regions of the world with substantial prevalence
  • Carcinoma
  • Aspiration: Other foreign contents in airways.
Further information: Aspiration in autopsy


Report findings and if they are consistent with already known diagnoses.

Further information: Autopsy


  1. For a full list of contributors, see article history. Creators of images are attributed at the image description pages, seen by clicking on the images. See Patholines:Authorship for details.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Objectively, siderophage-like cells would be reported as "brown pigment-containing macrophages", but can be presumed to be siderophages in this context.


  1. Burton, Julian L.; Rutty, Guy N. (2010). The Hospital Autopsy A Manual of Fundamental Autopsy Practice (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0340965146. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 page 62 in: J. Martin Beattie (2014). Post-Mortem Methods . Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107418004. 
  3. India: Tiwana, Kanwardeep Kaur; Nibhoria, Sarita; Gupta, Manvi; Yadav, Ashish (2014). "Histopathological Spectrum in Lung Autopsies- A 50 Case Study ". Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine & Toxicology 8 (2): 172. doi:10.5958/0973-9130.2014.00709.9. ISSN 0973-9122. 
  4. United States: Dr. Stanley Adams. Pulmonary Lung Conditions Found at Autopsy. Washington Forensic Services. Retrieved on 2019-12-20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 . Congestion. Humpath (2005-12-19).