New rules have been outlined for post mortem care facilities as they reopen to adhere to CDC guidelines. Here is a look at those changes. Mortuary care facilities play an important role in assisting with the handling and care of bodies for those who are deceased. During the process of receiving, reviewing, and preparing the body, there are many steps taken by medical examiners, coroners, and pathologists.

With COVID-19 virus, new precautions and procedures have been put in place for these facilities if they are handling a body of someone who was confirmed to have COVID-19, or if it was later discovered that a deceased person is in fact positive.

In addition to immediately notifying the health department of the confirmed case, post mortem care facilities must consider whether or not an autopsy will be performed, and if a collection of the appropriate specimens for testing is needed.

Post Mortem Care Facilities: Autopsy Steps & PPE

If an autopsy is in fact being performed on a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 corpse, limited access of the room by health professionals, and the use of appropriate PPE is important. Since the swab collection will not induce a cough, an N95 respirator is not required. However, gloves, gowns, and face shields should be used for protection from potentially infectious matter during the handling of a corpse and any procedure.

Those performing the autopsy should wear scrub suits or equivalent garments as well as a fluid-resistant gown, mask, face shield, and gloves as well as knee-high boots. This should be put on before entering the autopsy room and then removed in a specified dress room prior to leaving the autopsy quarters.

Post Mortem Care Facilities: Procedure Recommendations

In addition to standard autopsy practices for a safe workplace, the CDC also recommends limiting the number of personnel working on a body at one time as well as the number of people cutting into the corpse to just one at a time. Oscillating saws should have a vacuum attached to keep aerosols limited and the use of a biosafety cabinet for storage and use is recommended.

Further, clearly labeled containers and careful use and disposal of all sharps should be put in practice. Due to the high risk of infection from needlesticks, it is essential that all sharps waste is immediately placed in the proper disposal container. To track workers who have been in post mortem care facilities and around the autopsy suite – even just to clean it – it is essential to keep a logbook with all names, dates, and activities of those frequenting the facility. 

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