Rapid brain autopsy: The Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer's disease Research Center experience

Christine M. Hulette, Kathleen A. Welsh-Bohmer, Barbara Crain, Mari H. Szymanski, Nancy O. Sinclaire, Allen D. Roses

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. - To develop a system for retrieving brain tissue within 1 hour after death in an effective and useful manner. Design. - Nurse clinicians were employed as study coordinators and were available to families 24 hours each day. Setting. - Autopsies were performed at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, from 1985 through 1995. Participants. - Neuropathology faculty, fellows, and residents; autopsy technicians; and brain bank staff. Results. - Fifty-one rapid autopsies with a postmortem interval of less than 1 hour have been performed. Four of these were normal controls, three were disease controls, and 44 represented Alzheimer's disease patients. Tissue retrieved at rapid autopsy has been distributed to 93 research teams, 30 of these located at Duke University Medical Center. Many researchers have received multiple shipments of tissue. Conclusions. - The Bryan Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Rapid Autopsy Program at Duke University Medical Center has been successful in retrieving tissue from individuals with dementia and also from controls within 1 hour of death. The critical features of the success of this program have been the use of nurse clinicians who work closely with patients and their families to ensure a successful autopsy at the time of death and the maintenance of a 24-hour call schedule for nurses and neuropathology staff. Similar programs can be implemented for experimental work into the pathogenesis of a wide variety of human diseases in which the examination of human tissue is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)615-618
Number of pages4
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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