Postmortem Organ Weights at a South African Mortuary

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Weighing organs at autopsy provides objective evidence of pathology. Reference ranges must be locally applicable, accurate, and regularly defined.


The aims of this study were the generation of postmortem organ weight reference ranges for use in South African mortuaries, analysis of factors influencing organ weights, and comparison to international populations.


This was a retrospective study of autopsy reports from the Salt River medicolegal mortuary in Cape Town, South Africa, between 2013 and 2016. Disproportionate randomized stratified sampling was used to obtain sufficient cases from men and women; white, colored, and African racial groups; and decedents older and younger than 50 years. Observations from 1262 decedents older than 18 years dying traumatic on-scene deaths were recorded, excluding organs with macroscopic evidence of disease or destructive injury. Variables collected were sex, race, age, height, and body weight.


Organ weights were modeled using multiple linear regression analysis. In general, sex, race, and weight are significant predictors. In general, organs from African and colored decedents weigh less than those from white decedents, and similarly pooled South African organs are smaller than those from international populations. Ideal organ weight reference ranges are proposed, and a smartphone application is offered, which calculates individualized prediction intervals.


This study provides postmortem organ weight data for a South African population.

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