The role of fetal autopsy and placental examination in the causes of fetal death: A retrospective study of 132 cases of stillbirths

L. Reggiani Bonetti, P. Ferrari, N. Trani, L. MacCio, Laura Schirosi, Sartori Giuliana, F. Facchinetti, F. Rivasi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To investigate the most plausible cause of stillbirth by evaluating clinical records and postmortem examination findings including placental analysis. Methods: A retrospective cohort study concerning 132 stillbirths from 124 pregnancies occurred in the Mother-Infant Department of the University Hospital of Modena, Italy, from January 2000 to December 2004. Collected data were reviewed and classified according to the Gardosi ReCoDe system. Results: A reasonable cause of fetal death was identified in 99/124 pregnancies (79.84%). No associated relevant factors were disclosed in 25 fetuses (20.16%) classified as unexplained stillbirths. A succeeding scrupulous analysis of the placenta and an accurate clinical record review were useful to detect other conditions in 82 cases, including 5 cases of unexplained stillbirth. The major relevant conditions associated to stillbirths were feto-placental infection especially in the early fetal gestation age, under the 24th week of gestation, and placental insufficiency occurred both in early and late gestation age fetuses and mainly associated with a IUGR (<10th customized percentile). The main frequent secondary conditions were represented by placental anomalies including cluster of avascular villi with stromal fibrosis associated to thrombosis in minor and/or major vessel(s). Through the further analysis of the placenta, we were able to reduce the unexplained stillbirth rate from 20.16 to 15%. Conclusion: Accurate fetal autopsy and placental examination related to meticulous clinical collecting data are requisites in the valuation of stillbirth and could play an important role in reduction of unexplained stillbirth rate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2011


  • Fetal death
  • Placenta
  • Stillbirths
  • Unexplained death

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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