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J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2014 Nov;27(16):1688-92. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2013.872094. Epub 2014 Jan 13.

Role of fetal autopsy as a complementary tool to prenatal ultrasound.

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  • 1Department of Genetic Medicine .



To correlate and compare prenatal ultrasound with fetal autopsy examination to detect structural births defects and provide specific diagnoses.


141 second trimester fetuses (<20 weeks and <500 g) where pregnancy was terminated for structural birth defects and/or severe intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) or intra-uterine death, referred to our tertiary care private, teaching hospital were examined by a team of experienced pathologist and clinical geneticist. Findings of pathology examination were compared to those provided by ultrasound examination.


A total of 301 structural abnormalities were noted. Specific etiology was identified or syndromic diagnosis was possible in 57/141 (40.4%) cases. The maximum number of systemic anomalies (45/301, 14.95%) was noted in the central nervous system (CNS). CNS anomalies were most commonly associated with facial dysmorphism including cleft lip/palate etc. There was a complete agreement between ultrasound and autopsy findings in 41/141 (29.07%) cases, additional information that did not influence the final diagnosis and/or counseling was obtained by autopsy in 65/1416 (46.09%) cases, while additional information that influenced the final diagnosis and/or counseling was provided by autopsy in 35/141 (24.82%) cases.


Fetal autopsy serves as a complementary tool to fetal ultrasound due to its ability to pick up minor anomalies and/or anomalies that were missed on ultrasound. It may be routinely performed as an attempt to reach a specific diagnosis and offer appropriate counseling to couples, following pregnancy termination for fetal anomalies.


Autopsy; genetic diagnosis; prenatal; ultrasound

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