Hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) is potentially curative for patients with hematologic disorders, but carries significant risks of infection-related morbidity and mortality. Infectious diseases are the second most common cause of death in HCT recipients, surpassed only by progression of underlying disease. Many infectious diseases are difficult to diagnose and treat, and may only be first identified by autopsy. However, autopsy rates are decreasing despite their value. The clinical and autopsy records of adult HCT recipients at our center who underwent autopsy between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2017 were reviewed. Discrepancies between premortem clinical diagnoses and postmortem autopsy diagnoses were evaluated. Of 185 patients who underwent autopsy, 35 patients (18.8%) had a total of 41 missed infections. Five patients (2.7%) had .1 missed infection. Of the 41 missed infections, 18 (43.9%) were viral, 16 (39.0%) were fungal, 5 (12.2%) were bacterial, and 2 (4.9%) were parasitic. According to the Goldman criteria, 31 discrepancies (75.6%) were class I, 5 (12.2%) were class II, 1 (2.4%) was class III, and 4 (9.8%) were class IV. Autopsies of HCT recipients frequently identify clinically significant infectious diseases that were not suspected premortem. Had these infections been suspected, a change in management might have improved patient survival in many of these cases. Autopsy is underutilized and should be performed regularly to help improve infection-related morbidity and mortality. Illustrative cases are presented and the lessons learned from them are also discussed.
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