A first of its kind digital post-mortem service in Lancashire could help meet the national demand for heart valves.
The Digital Autopsy service based at Royal Preston Hospital (RPH) reduces the need for a traditional post-mortem, and will provide families in Lancashire with good access to the centrally-located service.
A traditional post-mortem is performed by a pathologist, who has to open the body and remove the organs to carry out the examination.
But by using a digital autopsy, heart valves could be removed from registered organ donors or with agreement from families, and donated to people who need them. Traditional post-mortems make this impossible due to the process involved.
Dr James Adeley, Senior Coroner for Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen, said the procedure will "minimise distress" to "benefit the people of Lancashire at their most difficult time".
Dr Adeley added: "This is a significant advance in establishing accurate causes of death without the need for the distress of the traditional post-mortem, for families who are already grieving.
"The county council and the trust have co-operated very effectively to deliver a service that is unavailable elsewhere on this scale.
"Once this service is fully operational, it could also help to meet the national need for heart valves, which would benefit recipients."
Dr Adeley is working with Lancashire County Council and RPH alongside iGene London Ltd who are delivering the service free at the point of use.
This less-invasive process may also help to reduce the time required to establish a cause of death, which benefits people who require an expedited release of the deceased person.
Karen Partington, Chief Executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We are delighted to be the first hospital in the North West to provide this innovative service, which will help to reduce distress for grieving families who are already going through a difficult time.
"This revolutionary approach to providing post-mortem examinations is far less invasive which means we are able to treat the deceased with more dignity and more quickly than with the current arrangements.
"We are pleased to have been able to deliver this service in collaboration with Dr Adeley, Lancashire County Council and iGene London Ltd in full recognition of the benefits it will provide for the people in Lancashire."