Understanding the results of the post mortem

As soon as the Pathologist sends through the result of the post mortem examination, we will phone the next of kin to explain the findings.

Post mortem results are always set out in a particular format.  The same format is used on the final death certificate from the Register Office.

  • 1a The disease or condition immediately causing death
  • 1b The underlying cause of 1a 
  • 1c The underlying cause of 1b
  • 2 Any disease or condition that did not cause death but contributed in some way

It is not always necessary to fill in sections 1b, 1c or 2.

Here is an example of a simple natural cause of death:

  • 1a Myocardial infarction
  • 1b Coronary artery atheroma
  • 1c --
  • 2 Diabetes

We would explain this by saying that the immediate cause of this person's death was a myocardial infarction, which is the medical term for a heart attack.  This was caused by coronary artery atheroma, which is commonly known as 'hardening' or 'furring up' of the arteries - a condition which reduces the blood supply to the heart.  The person also had diabetes in the background.

While we can explain the causes of death that the pathologist found, we do not have your relative's full medical history.  If you have questions about their individual case or the treatment they received, you may want to speak to a doctor that treated them at hospital, or to their GP.