Helpful Information:

Commonly Asked Questions about Autopsy (PDF)

Manard Stewart
Autopsy Coordinator, 206.277.1491


For many research volunteers, participation in the brain autopsy program is a meaningful and significant element in their contribution to advancing Alzheimer's disease research. Currently, brain autopsies provide the only definitive diagnosis of dementia; they also provide substantial information about the changes that occur in the brain as we age. Both autopsy from people with and without dementia are extremely valuable.

It is helpful to examine the data from years of in-person clinic visits in light of the results from research autopsies. These analyses help us improve accuracy in diagnosing dementia and allow us to continue our search for differences between normal brain aging and dementia. Because of these research benefits, participation in the brain autopsy program is one of the most substantial and vital forms of research participation in our center.

What are the benefits of brain autopsy participation for families?

Although the clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer's dease can be made with good accuracy, a brain autopsy is the only definitive way to confirm a dementia diagnosis. The findings of a research autopsy can shed light on the types, severity, and complexity of dementia. Many families find that the autopsy helps them in coping and understanding their loved one's battle with dementia and may answer many of their lingering questions. Families of research participants will not be charged for research brain autopsies through the ADRC. A letter summarizing the autopsy findings is written by one of our doctors and sent to any authorized and interested parties. This letter often links the autopsy findings to some of the clinical symptoms experienced during the patient's life.