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Regards to all our listeners!
I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.
Minimally invasive autopsies might fill the gap in needed medical knowledge that does not occur because of the time, cost, and capacity to do traditional autopsies, finds an insightful article recently published in Science.
The article explains minimally invasive autopsies take fluids and tissue from a half-dozen organs and examine them in a lab. The article notes there is mounting evidence that the process is cheaper, faster, and easier to accomplish than a traditional autopsy. Science reports while traditional autopsies cost about $500, a minimally invasive autopsy reduces the cost to $200 to $400.
The American Academy of Family Physicians explains an autopsy is a medical exam of the body of a person who has died. The purpose of an autopsy is to answer questions about the person's illness or the cause of death. The Academy explains autopsies provide valuable information that helps physicians save the lives of others. The Academy notes specially trained doctors, called pathologists, perform autopsies. More information is provided by the Academy within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's end of life issues health topic page.
The Science article explains the capability to do more autopsies is needed internationally. The author writes (and we quote): 'As startling as this sounds, health experts don't really know what kills many people worldwide. They're especially likely to be in the dark when the cause was some kind of infection and the victim was a child. And without this information, health officials don't know where to focus limited dollars, or how well current disease-reduction programs work' (end of quote).
For example, the article explains the dearth of autopsies in many nations leads to significantly different international estimates of the number of deaths from malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis.
The article notes while there is a global need for minimally invasive autopsies, their use is especially viable in developing nations with limited laboratory equipment and data entry capabilities. The article notes few developing nations have the funds and infrastructure for widespread autopsies. The author strongly suggests if autopsies were easier and faster to perform, the number of minimally invasive autopsies and resulting medical knowledge would increase exponentially world wide.
To provide a proof of concept, the author reports the Gates Foundation is funding a 20-year program in about 25 sites in Africa and Asia. The project initially will focus on child autopsies and expand to adults over time.
Meanwhile, autopsies are one of an array of end of life decisions covered in MedlinePlus.gov's end of life issues health topic page. The National Institute on Aging provides an overview of understanding health care decisions at the end of life in the 'specific conditions' section of MedlinePlus.gov's end of life issues health topic page.
MedlinePlus.gov's end of life issues health topic page also provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You can sign up to receive updates about end of life issues as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.
To find MedlinePlus.gov's end of life issues health topic page type 'end of life issues' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'End of life issues (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also has a health topic page devoted to advanced directives.
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