Non-invasive autopsy service nominated for national award

Sheffield’s radiology team are in the running for a top national medical award after establishing the world’s first minimally invasive autopsy service for babies and children who tragically die in the womb or 28 days after birth.

Dr Elspeth Whitby at the Academic Unit of Reproductive & Developmental Medicine Department of Human Metabolism at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield along with radiology and pathology colleagues from Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital have been shortlisted in the ‘Imaging Team’ category by the BMJ Awards for the service, which gives vital information for future pregnancies and the quality of medical care.

The regional service offers imaging and biopsy of specific organs if a formal autopsy procedure is refused. The least invasive methods offered include post-mortem MRI and x-ray images, skin biopsy for genetic testing, blood samples for toxicology and infection, and placental inspection.

Dr Elspeth Whitby, an honorary consultant at the Jessop Wing and a senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield’s Academic Unit of Reproductive and Developmental Medicine, said: “Coming to terms with the loss of a baby who has died in the womb or shortly after birth is understandably a very distressing and overwhelming experience. By offering a non-invasive service we aim to help and support families and individuals who refuse formal autopsies a means to better understand their grief and bereavement.

“The service is being supported by bereavement counsellors, coroners, all social and religious, and has been welcomed by paediatricians, neonatologists, geneticists, and obstetricians. So far we have been able to define the cause of death in all the cases we have investigated, and through this award nomination we hope to raise awareness of the importance of this regional service.”

The winners will be announced at a national award ceremony, which will take place at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster on Wednesday 6th May.


Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


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