Autopsy and Histology

The autopsy examination is the main tool for Forensic Pathologists to conduct medical investigations. The autopsy staff collaborates with Pathologists, investigators and the laboratories to conduct a complete medical case investigation.

The Forensic Pathologist is a physician trained in the specialty of pathology and the sub-specialty of forensic pathology. Training requires six years of additional study following medical school to become a specialist in death investigation. Pathologists consult daily to determine the cause and manner of death for all cases that occur in Allegheny County.

The autopsy room is the essential laboratory during any death investigation. The exam room uses the most advanced equipment required by the Pathologists to establish the cause and manner of death. In addition to the standard autopsy room tables and instruments, technical support equipment includes X-rays, photographic processing and magnifying equipment, computerized surface magnification and recording devices. Also the technicians use any necessary photographic procedures and technologies during the post mortem exam to add to the case investigation.

The autopsy room at the Medical Examiner’s Office can accommodate up to three teams of a pathologist and their assistants working on cases simultaneously. Staff includes a Chief Autopsy Technician and full time Assistant Autopsy Technicians. Acting as the physician’s assistant, a technician’s duties include record keeping, preparation for post mortem exams, collection and transfer of evidence and preparation of tissue samples for histology.
The Histology Laboratory aids in the investigation by creating microscopic slides from tissue samples retrieved at autopsy. Further autopsy samples and evidence may be submitted to the forensics lab for tests such as toxicology. 

The autopsy room functions throughout the seven day work week. Every case is attended to in a timely and professional manner. Due to the danger of exposure to deadly germs and diseases, strict infectious disease precautions are practiced by the Forensic Pathologists and autopsy staff.