Examination of brain tissue after death is currently the only definitive way to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD). The information obtained through autopsy will provide family members with invaluable family medical history information. Families are often reluctant to discuss autopsy. However, the time to make decisions regarding autopsy is before the need arises. The National Cell Repository for Alzheimer's Disease (NCRAD) staff encourages families to plan for autopsy well ahead of time. Autopsy will not delay or complicate plans for a funeral, cremation, or burial; nor will it interfere with the desire for an open casket.
Tissue for autopsy ideally needs to be removed within 12 hours following death. Because of these time constraints, it is suggested that all persons involved with the care of your family member be made aware of the desire to have an autopsy performed. These individuals need to know who to contact at the time of death so that the appropriate steps are taken to ensure rapid removal of brain tissue. At the time of death, authorization to perform the autopsy must be granted by the next of kin or legal guardian. This individual must sign an authorization form. If your family member is in a nursing home or other institution, this form will need to be on file with that institution.
A local pathologist can usually remove the tissue. The tissue is then transported to another facility (usually Indiana University School of Medicine) for diagnosis. The family can then expect to be provided information regarding the diagnosis 12-18 months after the death.
For more information about autopsy planning, please view our autopsy brochure or explore the links below or at the top of the page: