Declining rate of autopsies: implications for anatomic pathology residents
Autopsy is a major branch of anatomic pathology and is a broad topic to discuss. Declining autopsy rates have implications for pathology residents as well. As a part of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited anatomic pathology residency training in the United States, pathology residents are mandated to do 50 autopsies. With the decline in autopsies this number is becoming harder to achieve. To overcome this problem, ACGME allows two residents to share an autopsy. Even this shared autopsy policy may not be sufficient to achieve the desired number of 50 autopsies in the near future, and ACGME may have to reconsider this requirement for the pathology residents to be eligible for the American board of pathology (ABP) examination.
It is not just about the ACGME requirements, what matters, even more, is the learning experience of the residents. Autopsies are considered a valuable tool in learning normal histology. The decline in autopsies is depriving the anatomic pathology residents of this invaluable tool for learning normal histology and usual anatomical and histological variations. Moreover, sometimes autopsies also provide means of microscopic examination of benign pathologic conditions that otherwise rarely come as a surgical pathology specimen. Autopsies have educational value not only for pathology residents but also for other specialties and medical students. Aiello
Despite the continuous decline in autopsy rates it is hard to imagine that autopsies will become completely extinct. From anatomic pathology residents’ perspective, however, pathology residency programs need to look into additional resources for a better learning of normal histology as well as benign pathology and ACGME may have to reconsider the requirement of 50 autopsies.