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Autopsy vs. Biopsy: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
An autopsy is a thorough examination of a body after death to determine cause of death, while a biopsy involves removing tissue from a living body for diagnosis.
Autopsy vs. Biopsy

Key Differences

An autopsy is a post-mortem examination performed to determine the cause of death, typically involving a thorough analysis of the entire body. In contrast, a biopsy is a medical procedure that involves taking a small sample of tissue from a living body for diagnostic purposes.
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Autopsies are used to understand both the immediate cause of death and underlying health conditions. Biopsies, however, are used to diagnose or rule out certain conditions, such as cancer, by examining tissue or cell samples under a microscope.
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During an autopsy, various organs and systems of the body are examined, and samples may be taken for further analysis. Biopsy procedures vary in invasiveness, from needle biopsies, which are relatively simple, to surgical biopsies, which are more complex.
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Autopsies can provide valuable insights for medical research and public health, contributing to a better understanding of diseases. Biopsies are crucial in clinical settings for providing accurate diagnoses and guiding treatment plans.
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While autopsies are generally conducted after death, biopsies are performed on living patients, often as part of routine medical care when a disease is suspected.
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Comparison Chart

Purpose

Determine cause of death, examine disease
Diagnose or investigate diseases in living patients
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Performed On

Deceased individuals
Living individuals
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Procedure

Examination of entire body, internal and external
Removal of tissue sample for testing
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Invasiveness

Inherently invasive
Varies from minimally to moderately invasive
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Use in Medicine

Forensic investigation, medical research
Diagnosis, treatment planning
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Samples Examined

Entire body organs and systems
Specific tissues or cells
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Typical Setting

Mortuaries, forensic labs
Hospitals, clinics
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Results Usage

Determining cause of death, contributing to research
Diagnosing diseases, guiding treatment options
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Autopsy and Biopsy Definitions

Autopsy

A post-mortem procedure to study disease effects on a body.
The autopsy showed advanced stages of Alzheimer's disease.
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Biopsy

A procedure to determine the presence or extent of a disease.
The skin biopsy revealed the early stages of melanoma.
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Autopsy

A systematic investigation of a corpse to find the cause and manner of death.
The autopsy confirmed the presence of toxic substances in the body.
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Biopsy

A medical test involving the extraction of tissue samples for diagnosis.
The biopsy confirmed the diagnosis of breast cancer.
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Autopsy

A medical examination of a dead body to identify any pathologies.
The doctor performed an autopsy to understand the unexpected death.
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Biopsy

Sampling of a tissue from a living body for medical analysis.
A bone marrow biopsy was conducted to diagnose leukemia.
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Autopsy

Examination of a cadaver to determine or confirm the cause of death. Also called necropsy, postmortem, postmortem examination.
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Biopsy

Extraction of a small amount of tissue for diagnostic purposes.
The doctor recommended a biopsy to investigate the abnormal growth.
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Autopsy

A critical assessment or examination after the fact
A post-election campaign autopsy.
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Biopsy

Removal of cells or tissues for examination under a microscope.
A liver biopsy was performed to check for signs of liver disease.
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Autopsy

To subject to an autopsy.
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Biopsy

The removal and examination of a sample of tissue from a living body for diagnostic purposes.
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Autopsy

A dissection performed on a cadaver to find possible cause(s) of death.
The autopsy revealed he had died of multiple bullet wounds.
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Biopsy

A sample so obtained.
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Autopsy

An after-the-fact examination, especially of the causes of a failure.
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Biopsy

To remove (tissue) from a living body for diagnostic purposes.
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Autopsy

(rare) An eyewitness observation, the presentation of an event as witnessed.
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Biopsy

The removal and examination of a sample of tissue, cells, or bodily fluid from a living body for diagnostic purposes.
We will need to perform a biopsy to determine whether the tumour is malignant or benign.
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Autopsy

(transitive) To perform an autopsy on.
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Biopsy

To take a sample (a biopsy) for pathological examination.
They biopsied the lump but it turned out to be non-cancerous.
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Autopsy

(transitive) To perform an after-the-fact analysis of, especially of a failure.
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Biopsy

Examination of tissues or liquids from the living body to determine the existence or cause of a disease
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Autopsy

Personal observation or examination; seeing with one's own eyes; ocular view.
By autopsy and experiment.
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Autopsy

Dissection of a dead body, for the purpose of ascertaining the cause, seat, or nature of a disease; a post-mortem examination.
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Autopsy

An examination and dissection of a dead body to determine cause of death or the changes produced by disease
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Autopsy

Perform an autopsy on a dead body; do a post-mortem
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Autopsy

A thorough examination of a deceased body to determine the cause of death.
The autopsy revealed that the cause of death was heart failure.
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Autopsy

An extensive analysis of a body after death for forensic purposes.
The autopsy was crucial in solving the criminal investigation.
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is an autopsy only for legal cases?

It's used in legal cases and for medical research.
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Can biopsies be performed on all body tissues?

Yes, but the method depends on the tissue's location and condition.
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When is an autopsy performed?

Typically after a person's death, especially if the cause is unknown.
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What's the difference in invasiveness between autopsy and biopsy?

Autopsies are inherently invasive; biopsies range from minimally to moderately invasive.
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What is an autopsy?

An examination of a deceased body to determine the cause of death.
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What is a biopsy?

A procedure to remove tissue from a living body for diagnostic testing.
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Can autopsy results be used for treatment?

They can inform future medical treatments but not for the individual examined.
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Are biopsies painful?

Some discomfort is possible, but they're generally not very painful.
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Who performs autopsies?

Usually pathologists or forensic pathologists.
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What can a biopsy detect?

Conditions like cancer, infections, or inflammatory diseases.
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What's the difference in preparation for autopsy and biopsy?

Autopsy requires no preparation; biopsy may require fasting or avoiding certain medications.
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Can biopsies spread cancer?

This is a rare concern and precautions are taken to minimize risks.
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Can a biopsy lead to a misdiagnosis?

Rarely, but accurate sampling and interpretation are crucial.
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Are autopsies always required by law?

Not always, it depends on the circumstances of the death.
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How long does a biopsy procedure take?

It varies, but many biopsies are relatively quick, often under an hour.
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How long does it take to get autopsy results?

It varies, from a few days to several weeks.
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Do autopsies always determine the cause of death?

Most times, but occasionally the cause remains undetermined.
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How is a biopsy sample analyzed?

Typically under a microscope in a lab.
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Are there risks associated with biopsies?

Minimal, but there's a small risk of bleeding or infection.
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Is consent needed for autopsy and biopsy?

Biopsy always requires consent; autopsy consent depends on legal and ethical guidelines.
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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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