See Inside Scientific American Volume 306, Issue 5

Telltale Hearts: What Autopsies Reveal about This Vital Organ

Despite advances in medical imaging, an autopsy still gives experts the best picture of what ails us


The human heart endures a lot in a lifetime. Sophisticated imaging can give insight into what it tolerates and what ails it, but the most direct information comes from an autopsy.

Photographer Angela Strass­heim spent days at an undisclosed morgue in 2000, capturing the organ moments after its removal. She left with a series of images that show hearts pierced by a gunshot wound, damaged by obesity, affected by cancer and weakened by a drug overdose. In the center is a child’s healthy heart. The photographs are being published here for the first time. 

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