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Aetiology of stillbirth: Unexplored is not unexplained
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (2007)
  • M-A Measey, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • A Charles, King Edward Memorial Hospital
  • E T D'Espaignet, The University of Western Australia
  • C Harrison, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • N deKlerk, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research
  • Dr Catherine Douglass, The University of Notre Dame Australia
Objective: To describe the rate of and demographic factors associated with fetal postmortem investigation and to classify the cause of all fetal deaths that underwent postmortem investigation. To compare the proportion of deaths remaining unexplained after postmortem investigation with estimates derived from death certificates. Method: All fetal deaths in Western Australia (WA) from 1990 to 1999 were identified. These data were used to calculate postmortem rates and describe the characteristics of women consenting to postmortems. A multidisciplinary team classified the cause of all deaths that underwent postmortem investigation using the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand Perinatal Death Classification System. The proportion of deaths that were unexplained was compared with estimates based on death certificates. Results: Of the 1,619 fetal deaths recorded for 1990 to 1999, 49% (n=789) underwent complete postmortem investigation. Based on investigations, 22% of the 789 fetal deaths were unexplained and a further 18% were identified as having fetal growth restriction. Based on death certificates, 42% were unexplained and 65% were later explained by postmortem investigation. Conclusion and Implications: Postmortem investigation rates are low. They reveal a cause of death for the majority of cases that are unexplained clinically. Epidemiological investigations of unexplained fetal death based on cases not subject to complete postmortem investigation may lead to inaccurate conclusions. A standardised definition for unexplained fetal deaths that distinguishes between cases with detailed investigation and those with limited or no investigation is needed. © 2007 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2007 Public Health Association of Australia.
  • Stillbirth
Publication Date
Citation Information
M-A Measey, A Charles, E T D'Espaignet, C Harrison, et al.. "Aetiology of stillbirth: Unexplored is not unexplained" Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health Vol. 31 Iss. 5 (2007) p. 444 - 449
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