Mechanisms of death in structurally normal stillbirths

Percy Pacora, Roberto Romero, Sunil Jaiman, Offer Erez, Gaurav Bhatti, Bogdan Panaitescu, Neta Benshalom-Tirosh, Eun Jung Jung, Chaur Dong Hsu, Sonia S. Hassan, Lami Yeo, Nicholas Kadar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Objectives: To investigate mechanisms of in utero death in normally formed fetuses by measuring amniotic fluid (AF) biomarkers for hypoxia (erythropoietin [EPO]), myocardial damage (cardiac troponin I [cTnI]) and brain injury (glial fibrillary acidic protein [GFAP]), correlated with risk factors for fetal death and placental histopathology. Methods: This retrospective, observational cohort study included intrauterine deaths with transabdominal amniocentesis prior to induction of labor. Women with a normal pregnancy and an indicated amniocentesis at term were randomly selected as controls. AF was assayed for EPO, cTnI and GFAP using commercial immunoassays. Placental histopathology was reviewed, and CD15-immunohistochemistry was used. Analyte concentrations >90th centile for controls were considered "raised". Raised AF EPO, AF cTnI and AF GFAP concentrations were considered evidence of hypoxia, myocardial and brain injury, respectively. Results: There were 60 cases and 60 controls. Hypoxia was present in 88% (53/60), myocardial damage in 70% (42/60) and brain injury in 45% (27/60) of fetal deaths. Hypoxic fetuses had evidence of myocardial injury, brain injury or both in 77% (41/53), 49% (26/53) and 13% (7/53) of cases, respectively. Histopathological evidence for placental dysfunction was found in 74% (43/58) of these cases. Conclusion: Hypoxia, secondary to placental dysfunction, was found to be the mechanism of death in the majority of fetal deaths among structurally normal fetuses. Ninety-one percent of hypoxic fetal deaths sustained brain, myocardial or both brain and myocardial injuries in utero. Hypoxic myocardial injury was an attributable mechanism of death in 70% of the cases. Non-hypoxic cases may be caused by cardiac arrhythmia secondary to a cardiac conduction defect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)222-240
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Perinatal Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • CD15
  • amniotic fluid
  • brain injury
  • cardiac troponin I
  • delayed villous maturation
  • erythropoietin
  • fetal hypoxia
  • glial fibrillary acidic protein
  • myocardial damage
  • placental dysfunction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mechanisms of death in structurally normal stillbirths'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this