The profile of deaths related to coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) that occurred outside the hospital in Japan remains unclear because of cautious stance on performing autopsies of COVID-19 positive cases.
Autopsy cases that tested positive for COVID-19 in the Tokyo Metropolis from April 2020 to July 2022 were handled by medical examiners (n = 41). Age, sex, medical history, autopsy findings, cause of death, postmortem computed tomography (PMCT) findings, and the causal relationship between death and COVID-19 were examined.
The mean age of the deceased was 58.0 years (range: 28-96 years), and the study sample consisted of 33 males (80.5%) and 8 females (19.5%). The most frequent medical histories were hypertension (n = 7) and diabetes (n = 7), followed by mental disorders (n = 5). Nineteen cases showed a body mass index ≧25.0 (46.3%). The leading cause of death was pneumonia (n = 17), in which diffuse ground-glass opacification and/or consolidation was noted on PMCT. There were 26 deaths directly related to COVID-19 (63.4%), including pneumonia, myocarditis, laryngotracheobronchitis, and emaciation. The proportion of deaths directly related to COVID-19 was lower after 2022 (42.1%) than prior to 2022 (81.8%).
Pneumonia was the leading cause of death in this study sample; however, the causes of death in COVID-19 positive cases varied, especially after 2022, when the omicron variant was dominant. Mortality statistics may be affected by viral mutations, and the results of this study further emphasize the need for autopsy because more differential diagnoses should be considered in the phase of the omicron variant.

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