Category Archives: News

New Procedure: Small Incision Autopsy

Small Incision Autopsy

We’re now offering an autopsy whose sole purpose is to provide families with information about inherited conditions: The Small Incision Autopsy.

Our over-riding goal is to provide families with closure after a loss. Generally, this means understanding why the patient died. But it can also mean explaining what may have caused troubling symptoms, assessing changes related to procedures and other treatments, and teaching about basic disease processes. If the death is unexpected and sudden, families can also wonder if there is an inherited condition to worry about. An autopsy can sometimes help by finding out.

The Small Incision Autopsy uses a small incision — much smaller than that of a routine autopsy — to access important areas of the body that can harbor just the information that could help the family.

Right now, we’re focusing on heart disease — a main cause of sudden death. Some important inherited causes of sudden cardiac death can include coronary blockages from high cholesterol; and the very under-reported valve condition, bicuspid aortic valve. Taking a focused look at the heart can uncover these and other heart conditions. The family can then get tested and treated. Knowing can save lives.

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New event venue

Our event, Science to Humanity:  The Autopsy, is moving to a new venue. Join us at the International Museum of Surgical Science starting July 30 for Science to Humanity; and stay tuned for more educational events in 2014-2015. The facility is located along Lake Shore Drive in the Gold Coast just one block south of North Avenue. Discounted parking is available nearby, including at the Chicago History Museum. The venue is wheelchair accessible.


While at the museum you can see some of the most innovative tools and procedures from the history of medicine. Exhibits cover such diverse subjects such as ophthalmology and orthopedics, and come from all over the world and every part of history. The IMSS collection ranges from an Iron Lung and early artificial limbs to a 19th century pharmacy featuring Dr. Miles’ Cactus Compound, Lydia Pinkham’s Blood Medicine and many other elixirs from ages past.

Surgical tools

In addition to artifacts from medical history, guests can also see modern artwork devoted to medical innovation and the creative spirit of health science.  Works by Artist-in-Residence Vesna Jovanovic and the Anatomy in the Gallery exhibit provide a current perspective on the long tradition of art in medicine.

Vesna Jovanovic

The IMSS was established in 1954 by the International College of Surgeons and Dr. Max Thorek. It is the oldest medical museum in Chicago and one of the few in the Midwest. Capably staffed by volunteers, the museum has become an attraction for students and adults alike.

International Museum of Surgical Science
1524 N. Lake Shore Dr.
Chicago, IL 60610

Urban Prep students visit with the Autopsy Center

photo 3Urban Prep students visited with the Autopsy Center on March 26 to learn about the field of autopsy pathology. As part of Urban Prep’s “Discover Our City Day,” over 600 of the Bronzeville students fanned out in chaperoned groups throughout the Chicago area to meet with varied professionals, including Dr. Margolis.

They learned about the autopsy procedure but also spoke of their own experiences with loss. Most had had experience losing a loved one, but had also seen death “in the street.” While professional aspirations ranged from engineering to sports-casting, all were curious about how an autopsy works.

A student joined Dr. Margolis in donning protective equipment: from shoe covers to plastic gown. A second student volunteered as our cadaver, coming “alive” again to point out an old scar on his forehead. As the “examination” proceeded, Dr. Margolis clicked through portions of his slide show, Science to Humanity: The Autopsy, to illustrate what the body would actually show during each part of the procedure. Pneumonias, heart disease, damage lungs from smoking appeared on the screen as the dissection progressed.

By the end of the presentation, the students began to share stories and ask questions about disease and illness they or their loved ones had experience. “My mother had pneumonia,” one student shared, after seeing a microscopic slide. He commented on her shortness of breath and long hospitalization. Another, heading towards a career in psychology, commented on the “closure” an autopsy can give.

High schools interested in organizing a presentation with the Autopsy Center should contact the Autopsy Center.