AIM: To compare the quality of perinatal and infant necropsy examinations in 1996 with those performed in 1993. METHODS: Cohort analysis, with data from the All Wales Perinatal Survey, of 1027 deaths (540 in 1993; 487 in 1996) of babies between 20 weeks' gestation and one year of age. The quality of the necropsy was assessed by scoring aspects identified as being part of the investigation. RESULTS: Necropsy was performed in 335 cases (62%) in 1993 and in 320 cases (66%) in 1996. The proportion done in a regional centre increased significantly from 39% (131/335) in 1993 to 76% (243/320) in 1996 (p < 0.0001). The quality of necropsy was above the minimum standard in 54% of cases in 1993 (171/314) compared with 93% in 1996 (289/312) (p < 0.0001). Improvement occurred in all categories. For stillbirths, 35% (46/133) were above the minimum standard in 1993 compared with 90% (104/116) in 1996 (p < 0.0001); for cases not classified as sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI), the improvement was from 62% in 1993 (40/65) to 97% in 1996 (73/75) (p < 0.0001); and for SUDI cases, the improvement was from 32% in 1993 (10/31) to 91% in 1996 (21/23) (p < 0.0001). The quality of both non-regional and regional necropsies improved. For non-regional cases, the score was above the minimum standard in 28% (51/183) in 1993 compared with 69% (52/75) in 1996 (p < 0.0001); for regional cases it improved from 92% (120/131) in 1993 to 100% (237/237) in 1996 (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSIONS: The quality of perinatal and infant necropsies improved considerably between 1993 and 1996, reflecting better awareness of the importance of good quality examination and an increase in referrals to paediatric centres.
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