Autopsies performed on COVID-19 patients have provided critical information about SARS-CoV-2’s tropism, mechanisms of tissue injury, and the spectrum of disease.


To provide an updated database of postmortem disease in COVID-19 patients, assess relationships among clinical and pathologic variables, evaluate the accuracy of death certification, and correlate disease variables to causes of death.


The 272 postmortem examinations reported in this paper were submitted by 14 pathologists from 9 medical or forensic institutions across the United States. The study spans the eras of the 3 principal COVID-19 strains and incorporates surveyed demographic, clinical, and postmortem data from decedents infected with SARS-CoV-2, including primary and contributing causes of death. It is the largest database of its kind to date.


Demographics of the decedents reported here correspond well to national statistics. Primary causes of death as determined by autopsy and official death certificates were significantly correlated. When specifically cited disease conditions found at autopsy were correlated with COVID-19 versus non–COVID-19 death, only lung findings characteristic of SARS-CoV-2 infection or the absence of lung findings were significantly associated.


Changes in hospitalization and disease likely stem from longer lifespans after COVID-19 diagnosis and alteration in treatment approaches. Although Omicron variants preferentially replicate in the upper airways, autopsied patients who died of COVID-19 in that time period showed the same lung damage as earlier decedents. Most importantly, findings suggest that there are still unelucidated risk factors for death from COVID-19 including possibly genetic susceptibility.

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Competing Interests

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.