A retrospective analysis of COVID‐19 cases seen at a medico‐ legal mortuary from March 2020 to February 2022


Covid 19

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A retrospective analysis of COVID‐19 cases seen at a medico‐ legal mortuary from March 2020 to February 2022. (2024). Undergraduate Research in Health Journal, 2(1), e1787. https://doi.org/10.1796/


Background. The global community has grappled with a prolonged pandemic, initiated by the coronavirus outbreak. Understanding the virus’ pathogenicity necessitates a comprehensive analysis of autopsy reports. However, in South Africa (SA), limited research has been conducted on coronavirus, primarily due to safety concerns associated with performing autopsies on COVID-19 cases.

Objectives. To analyse demographics, circumstances, chief pathological findings and various causes of death among cases with positive SARS- CoV-2 laboratory results in a medico-legal setting.

Methods. This retrospective study analysed autopsy findings from all positive COVID-19 cases observed at a medico-legal mortuary, in SA, from March 2020 to February 2022.

Results. Ultimately, 208 cases (age range 19 - 75 years, median 46.1 years, 60.1% male) with positive SARS-Cov-2 laboratory results were seen. All 208 individuals were black, which is representative of the demographics in the community. In 11 cases (72.7% males), death was related to COVID-19. Sudden death was reported in 63% of cases. The most predominant chief pathological finding was features of pneumonia in 45% of cases.

Conclusion. Postmortem findings revealed pathological findings mostly in the lungs. These findings contribute to the limited research in SA.



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Copyright (c) 2024 M K Mashifane, K K Hlaise, C van wyk, Y Bismilla