2014, Volume 30, Number 3, Page(s) 189-194
Perinatal Autopsy Evaluation of 2150 Autopsies in the Çukurova Region of Turkey
Arbil AÇIKALIN1, Emine KILIÇ BAĞIR1, Goncagül TORUN1, Berna TOTAN ATEŞ1, Şeyda ERDOĞAN1, Aysun UĞUZ1, Melek ERGİN1, Selim BÜYÜKKURT2, Fatma TUNCAY ÖZGÜNEN2, Nurdan TUNALI1, Derya GÜMÜRDÜLÜ1
1Departments of Pathology, Çukurova University, Faculty of Medicine, ADANA, TURKEY
2Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Çukurova University, Faculty of Medicine, ADANA, TURKEY
Keywords: Autopsy, Congenital abnormalities, Prenatal diagnosis, Perinatal mortality, Syndrome
We aimed to document the reasons of perinatal deaths in
a large autopsy series performed in our institute, which is a reference
center in the Çukurova region of Turkey.
Material and Method: The study included 2150 autopsies performed
between January 2000 and December 2012at our institute. Diagnoses
were categorized according to the detected pathologies; congenital
malformations were detailed based on systems.
Results: A pathology was detected in 1619 of 2150 (73.3%) autopsies.
Congenital malformations were the most common diagnosis with
68.2%. Neural tube defects and central nervous system malformations
were the most frequent system malformation in 28.8% of cases,
followed by the urogenital system (11.4%) and musculoskeletal
system (8.3%), respectively. Malformation syndromes including
multisystem anomalies were defined in 109 cases (9.3%).
Conclusion: Congenital malformations are the most common reason
for perinatal deaths, with autopsy having an additive role to prenatal
and genetic evaluations and providing foresight for planning a
The stillbirth rate of a population is accepted as an
indicator of development. This factor has an impact on
evaluating the reasons of prenatal and postnatal deaths
to decrease the stillbirth rates. In a large pooled analysis,
Lawn et al. have estimated that 26% (1.02 million) of the
total number of 3.9 million stillbirths are intra-partum
. Congenital malformations are frequent
reasons of intrauterine death, and the distribution of the
incidence of abnormalities differs by region. It is important
to identify the distribution and prevalence of congenital abnormalities for every country and even every region2
Çukurova University is a reference center for pregnancies
at risk in the Çukurova region of Turkey. This region shows
a higher incidence of consanguineous marriages, lower
social and cultural levels, and particular environmental
factors that possibly increase perinatal mortality rates. We
perform approximately 200 ± 50 autopsies per year at our
institute. In present study, we aimed to present a large series
including 2150 autopsy results within a 13-year period,
and to document the distribution of the causes of perinatal
death in the Çukurova region.
This retrospective study includes 2150 prenatal and
postnatal (under one year-old) autopsies performed at
our institute between January 2000 and December 2012
(13 years). The autopsy technique and expectations from
autopsy were described to the family member of the fetus
by the obstetrician and/or pathologist (in case of the
family's request) and a consent form was obtained. The
option of receiving the fetus after the autopsy procedure
is provided to the family members because of religious
reasons. After the consent, all cases were X-rayed from the
anterior and lateral aspects. Photographs were taken at all
stages of the procedure, especially in terms of the presence
of abnormalities. Circumferences of the head, chest and
abdomen; head to heel, head to sacrum, and heel to second
toe lengths; and weight of the fetus and the visceral organs
were measured and noted. The fetus was incised using the
“Y” method, and the visceral organs were taken out as three
separate compartments (thorax, abdomen, genitourinary),
dissected and sampled. We excluded 437 stillbirths where
gross and microscopic evaluation results were not eligible
due to severe autolysis. The findings of the 1713 other cases
were categorized according to the congenital malformations,
placental factors, infections and miscellaneous diagnoses.
Congenital malformations were sub-categorized according
to isolated system abnormalities, multi-system abnormalities
and chromosomal defects. We also analyzed and compared
the distribution of the number of cases by the 13 years.
Distribution of autopsy numbers per year is shown in Figure
. The male to female ratio was 1044/1039. The gender could
not be detected in 65 fetuses because of severe autolysis
and maceration, and 2 cases had ambiguous genitalia. The
most frequent fetal age was the second trimester as found
in 1388 cases (64.5%), followed by the third trimester in 627
(29.2%) cases and first trimester in 79 cases (3.7%). Thirtynine
cases (1.8%) were newborn (0-1 month) and 17 (0.8%)
were infants (1-12 months). Newborns and infants were
more common in the years 2000-2005 years while second
trimester infants were more common after 2006. Ninetyfour
cases (4.3%) were normal with no gross, microscopic
or genetic pathologies. The most frequent diagnosis was
congenital abnormalities as found in 1169 cases (68.2%).
Chorioamnionitis associated with early membrane rupture,
categorized in placental factors, was the second most
common diagnosis and found in 228 cases (10.6%). Other
pathologies are listed with their frequencies in Table I
Click Here to Zoom
|Figure 1: Number of autopsies
performed in our institute from
2000 to 2012 per year.
Frequencies of single system congenital abnormalities other
than syndromes and chromosomal defects were as follows from highest to lowest: neural tube defects and central
nervous system anomalies (Figure 2); nuchal edema / cystic
hygroma; urogenital system; skeletal system; cardiovascular
system; abdomen wall and diaphragm defects; and
respiratory system pathologies. Abnormalities with respect
to systems are listed in Table II.
Click Here to Zoom
|Figure 2: Fetus with neural tube defect showing anencephaly and
Chromosomal defects were detected in 48 cases (2.2%) and
were as follows: 15 trisomy 21 cases, 13 trisomy 13 cases,
2 Turner syndrome (45, X0) cases, 2 Klinefelter syndrome
(47, XXY) cases and 3 others (18p deletion, aneuploidy and
Multisystem abnormalities including defined syndromes
are listed in Table III (Figure 3,4). Live births (39 newborns,
17 infants) showed mostly infections, problems associated
with prematurity, and metabolic/storage diseases. Infections
were present in 6 cases of which 3 were CMV, 2 Parvovirus
and 1 Toxoplasmosis. A congenital tumor was detected in
five cases and all were teratomas (Figure 5).
Click Here to Zoom
|Figure 3: Gross and X-ray findings of a fetus with syrenomelia/
Congenital malformations are one of the most common
causes of perinatal deaths and our rate was 68.2%. Fetal
autopsy is accepted to be as important as and perhaps
even more important than karyotype analysis and prenatal
ultrasonography in comparative studies in the literatüre3-7
. Fetal autopsy provided more information than
prenatal ultrasonography in these studies. Any information
is important for the obstetrician who has to answer the
questions of families about the risk of recurrence in following
pregnancies. Our results showed a marked decrease in annual
autopsy numbers from 270 to 170s, especially in last 2 years
). There are many reasons for this, such as: detailed
information about the benefits of fetal autopsy is not provided
to family members in contrast to past years due to the heavy
workload and social security problems. Fetal autopsy leads to extra cost and is not paid by social security. Social security
does not pay for fetal autopsy consultations requested from
other institutions. All these factors collectively have a negative
effect on the number of autopsies performed.
Causes of perinatal and postnatal deaths were detected and/
or supported by fetal autopsy in 1619 of 2150 (75.3%) cases
in the present study. The most frequent reason of death was
congenital malformations (68.2%) in our study, due to the
fact that most of our group was in the second trimester,
i.e. the anatomical scanning period. Neural tube defects
and central nervous system abnormalities were the most
common abnormality in 337/1169 cases (28.8%) in our study
and this was similar to the rate of 31.1-74.2% reported in the literatüre2,6-8. The vast majority of this group consisted
of spina bifida (meningocele / meningomyelocele), seen in
121 cases, followed almost equally by anencephaly in 118
cases. NTD cases are consistently reported at high rates
in the literature as they are easily detected on prenatal
The second most frequent abnormality in previous studies
was either musculoskeletal system or urogenital system
abnormalities as we also observed7,9,10. Most of the cases were multicystic dysplasia (56/133) and renal agenesis
(41/133). Renal abnormalities are usually associated with
severe oligohydramnios and are therefore easy to detect in
the prenatal period.
Half of the 97 musculoskeletal system anomalies
consisted of osteochondrodysplasia with 49 cases. These
abnormalities were evaluated by the obstetrician as
a skeletal anomaly. Postmortem X-ray radiographies
were evaluated by a radiologist and additive findings
of microscopic evaluation of the bones enabled us to
subcategorize the dysplasia in majority of cases.
Cardiovascular system anomalies are not easy to detect
in the early weeks and in stillborn fetuses as the vascular
structures are very fine and sensitive to dissection. Septal
defects were the most frequent anomalies (45 of 88 cases)
followed by complex anomalies in 27 cases, similar to the
results of Ramalho et al.11.
Isolated system anomalies of solid organs and vertebra
are usually detected during prenatal ultrasonography.
Fetal autopsy has an additive role, particularly in complex
anomalies and defined syndromes found at a rate of
109/1169 in our study. These complex anomalies may be genetically inherited, or may have a high recurrence risk and
therefore need to be defined to guide genetic evaluations.
We have detected a wide range of congenital malformation
syndromes as listed in Table III.
The aim of this study was to focus on congenital
malformations but it is of note that there was a high incidence
of autolysis related to undetected intrauterine deaths with
20.3% (437/2150) of the cases, where the autopsy procedure
could not detect an abnormality even if present. The benefits of autopsy need to be evaluated in this aspect so that the
request can be selective to avoid overloading the health care
and social security systems.
To summarize, this large series of 13 years of results showed
that congenital malformations are the most common
reason of perinatal deaths, and autopsy has an important
role that is additional to genetic evaluation to predict the
risk of recurrence in the following pregnancies.
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