Lung autopsy

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Author: Mikael Häggström [note 1]
Autopsy of the lungs, not including larger pulmonary vessels (instead summarized at Autopsy - Other thorax).

Basic autopsy cutting

In non-forensic Autopsy:

The lungs may be cut after removing the heart through cutting through the major vessels close to it, or by removing each lung by cuts by each lung hilum.
  • 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]
For context, see 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

Template:Main lung microscopic evaluation

If respiratory epithelial shedding is seen, look for vascular leakage, mucus hypersecretion and/or widespread airway narrowing, together indicating asthma death.[3] Otherwise, it is a frequent postmortem change.

Additional potential findings are mentioned in the general Lungs article.


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


Histopathology of pulmonary congestion and siderophages.jpg
Presence of sideophages indicating chronic heart failure. Prominent vessels, including alveolar capillaries, and a moderate lymphocytic infiltrate, consistent with chronic heart failure or acute decompensation.

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.

Main page


  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. Madea, B (2014). Handbook of forensic medicine . Hoboken, N.J: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-118-57062-3. OCLC 872114659. 

Image sources