Why Autopsies Matter

Dr. Perl explains why autopsies are so important in providing data for brain research.

One of the major issues in addressing this is we don’t do autopsies anymore. We don’t study post-mortem tissues anymore. We think we know all the answers, because we’ve got better diagnostic techniques or whatever answer one wants to give. So we don’t have an experience of looking at large numbers of individuals who’ve just had the normal events in one’s life to look at. In the old days, where we did many more autopsies, we had that data. There are a few archival collections actually available that could be resampled to start to answer that question. We’ve actually looked into the possibility of doing that. This is an important question that needs to be answered. And when we’re doing such a very small percentage of deaths looking at autopsies, you’re not going to be able to answer this question. So this is a real problem. Obviously if we get to a point where we could diagnose CTE in a living individual, then this changes. It’s very similar to the issue with the blast injury. Then you can go to populations and to start to screen them and study them. But until we have that, we’re sort of stuck with inadequate information.
Posted on BrainLine December 13, 2017.

About the author: Daniel P. Perl, MD

Dr. Perl is a Professor of Pathology at USUHS and Director of the CNRM's Brain Tissue Repository, where he has established a state-of-the-art neuropathology laboratory dedicated to research on the acute and long-term effects of traumatic brain injury among military personnel.

Dr. Daniel P. Pearl