J Natl Med Assoc 2005 Mar;97(3):390-3
Department of Pathology, Howard University Hospital, Washington, DC, USA.
In this study, we reviewed autopsy records for clinical data and autopsy findings from patients aged 70 or more, over a 10-year period (1993 to 2002) in an urban university hospital. For that period, there were a total of 772 autopsy cases of which 180 (23%) patients were aged 70 years or older. We found that despite a marked decrease in total autopsy rates, there has been a perceptible rise in geriatric cases. Cardiovascular and infectious diseases in this age group are the leading causes of death as reported nationally. We found that women died more of acute myocardial infarctions than men, even though hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases not otherwise specified were more prevalent in men. It is our conclusion that at our institution: 1) despite a marked decrease in the total autopsy rate, the geriatric autopsy rate is rising; 2) infectious and cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in elderly patients; 3) Myocardial infarcts as a cause of death are more often seen in women for this age group. It is also our impression that better autopsy reporting is needed for maximal utilization of autopsy findings in medical auditing and teaching and for improvements in the quality of patient care in general and the geriatric patient in particular.