Data usefulness in determining cause of stillbirth in South Asia


Objective: To evaluate the usefulness of data to determine cause of stillbirth in India and Pakistan.

Design: Prospective, observational study.

Settings: Study hospitals in India and Pakistan.

Population: 200 fetal deaths with placental evaluation and minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS) of internal organs and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for 75 pathogens.

Main outcome measures: Data defined as useful to determine stillbirth causes.

Results: Placental pathology was the most useful to determine cause of stillbirth. Comparing placental and fetal weight with standard weights was useful in 44.5% and 48.5%, respectively. Lung histology was useful in 42.5%. Most of the other findings of internal organ histology were only occasionally useful. Signs of abruption, by maternal history or placental evaluation, were always deemed useful. Placenta, brain and cord blood PCR were also useful, but less often than histology.

Conclusion: Based on this analysis, maternal clinical history, placental histology and fetal examination were most informative. Comparing the placental and fetal weights with recognised standards was useful in nearly half the cases. Fetal tissue histology and PCR were also informative. Of all the potential tests of MITS-obtained specimens, we would first recommend histological evaluation of the lungs, and using a multiplex PCR platform would determine pathogens in blood and brain/CSF. We recognise that this approach will not identify some causes, including some genetic and internal organ anomalies, but will confirm most common causes of stillbirth and most of the preventable causes of stillbirth in low- and middle-income countries.