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Eur J Paediatr Neurol. 2007 May;11(3):167-74. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

Postmortem brain MRI with selective tissue biopsy as an adjunct to autopsy following neonatal encephalopathy.

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  • 1Neonatal Unit, Northwick Park Hospital, North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK.


Following the death of a neonate it is essential that parents are given full and accurate information about the probable cause of death. Perinatal autopsy often adds new information or may even change the presumed diagnosis [Cartlidge PH, Dawson AT, Stewart JH, Vujanic GM. Value and quality of perinatal and infant postmortem examinations: cohort analysis of 400 consecutive deaths. Br Med J 1995;310(6973):155-8; Khong TY. Falling neonatal autopsy rates. Br Med J 2002;324(7340):749-50] informing decisions regarding the management of any future pregnancy. Autopsy can be considered the "gold standard" for the identification of antecedent events leading to a neonatal death. However, recent events in the UK have added to an already declining rate in neonatal autopsies [Brodlie M, Laing IA. Ten years of neonatal autopsies in tertiary referral centre: retrospective study. Br Med J 2002;324(7340):761-3]. To try and redress this balance the Chief Medical Officer has recommended that research should be commissioned into the use of non-invasive imaging to provide a similar standard of information [The Chief Medical Officer. The removal, retention and use of human organs and tissues from post mortem examination. London, England: The Stationary Office, Department of Health; 2001]. Previous publications on postmortem MRI have focused largely on investigation of the foetus and of still birth [Griffiths PD, Variend D, Evans M, Jones A, Wilkinson ID, Paley MNJ, et al. Postmortem MR imaging of the fetal and stillborn central nervous system. Am J Neuroradiol 2003;24(1):22-7; Whitby EH, Paley MN, Cohen M, GriffithsPD. Postmortem MR imaging of the fetus: an adjunct or a replacement for conventional autopsy? Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 2005;10(5):475-83]. We report our experience on the use of postmortem brain MRI combined with selective tissue biopsy, in six neonatal deaths in the setting of a large district general hospital.

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