Post‐mortem examination of COVID19 patients reveals diffuse alveolar damage with severe capillary congestion and variegated findings of lungs and other organs suggesting vascular dysfunction
Menter, T. et al.
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Aims: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) caused by SARS‐CoV‐2 has rapidly evolved into a sweeping pandemic. While its major manifestation is in the respiratory tract, the general extent of organ involvement as well as microscopic changes in the lungs remain insufficiently characterised. Autopsies are essential to elucidate COVID‐19‐associated organ alterations. Methods: This study reports autopsy findings of 21 COVID‐19 patients hospitalised at the University Hospital Basel and at the Cantonal Hospital Baselland, Switzerland. An in‐corpore technique was performed to ensure optimal staff safety. Results: The primary cause of death was respiratory failure with exudative diffuse alveolar damage with massive capillary congestion often accompanied by microthrombi despite anticoagulation. Ten cases showed superimposed bronchopneumonia. Further findings included pulmonary embolisms (n=4), alveolar haemorrhage (n=3) and vasculitis (n=1). Pathologies in other organ systems were predominantly attributable to shock; three patients showed signs of generalised thrombotic microangiopathy. Six patients were diagnosed with senile cardiac amyloidosis upon autopsy. Most patients suffered from one or more comorbidities (hypertension, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus). Additionally, there was an overall predominance of males and individuals with blood group A (81% and 65%, respectively). All relevant histological slides are linked as open‐source scans in supplementary files. Conclusions: This study provides an overview of post‐mortem findings in COVID‐19 cases, implying that hypertensive, elderly, obese, male individuals with severe cardiovascular comorbidities as well as those with blood group A may have a lower threshold of tolerance for COVID‐19. This provides a pathophysiological explanation for higher mortality rates amongst these patients.