In a retrospective study of 150 stillbirths and 150 neonatal deaths carried out between 1981 and 1985 the necropsy findings were compared with the clinical diagnoses, which had been obtained from the postmortem request form, and the case notes completed before the necropsy was performed. In all cases the necropsy comprised macroscopic findings and histological examination of all organs, with microbiology, radiology, and cytogenetics where appropriate. Clinically important differences between clinical and pathological diagnoses in 54 of 150 cases (36%) were noted in the cases of stillbirth. Of the neonatal deaths, examination showed clinically important information that had not been recognised during life in 66 cases (44%). Histological examination of tissues was essential for making or confirming the pathological diagnosis in 20% of all perinatal deaths.
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