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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013 May;137(5):706-20. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2011-0645-RA.

Hypoxic patterns of placental injury: a review.

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  • 1Division of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH 45229-3039, USA.



In utero hypoxia is an important cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality and can be evaluated retrospectively to explain perinatal outcomes, to assess recurrence risk in subsequent pregnancies, and to investigate for medicolegal purposes by identification of many hypoxic placental lesions. Definitions of some placental hypoxic lesions have been applied relatively liberally, and many of them are frequently underreported. Objectives To present a comprehensive assessment of the criteria for diagnosing acute and chronic histologic features, patterns, and lesions of placental and fetal hypoxia and to discuss clinicopathologic associations and limitations of the use thereof. The significance of lesions that have been described relatively recently and are not yet widely used, such as laminar necrosis; excessive, extravillous trophoblasts; decidual multinucleate extravillous trophoblasts; and, most important, the patterns of diffuse chronic hypoxic preuterine, uterine, and postuterine placental injury and placental maturation defect, will be discussed.


Literature review.


The placenta does not respond in a single way to hypoxia, and various placental hypoxic features should be explained within a clinical context. Because the placenta has a large reserve capacity, hypoxic lesions may not result in poor fetal condition or outcome. On the other hand, very acute, in utero, hypoxic events, followed by prompt delivery, may not be associated with placental pathology, and many poor perinatal outcomes can be explained by an etiology other than hypoxia. Nevertheless, assessment of placental hypoxic lesions is helpful for retrospective explanations of complications in pregnancy and in medicolegal investigation.

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