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Investigation of the role of computed tomography as an adjunct to autopsy in the evaluation of stillbirth

CT scanning has a role in the investigation of stillbirth and may be an option instead of post-mortem examination or as an adjunct, particularly for infants with congenital anomalies.


Keelin O'Donoghue

Journal Name
European Journal of Radiology
Journal Article
Perinatal pathology, Stillbirth
Full Citation

O’Donoghue K, O’Regan KN, Sheridan CP, O’Connor OJ, Benson J, McWilliams S, Moore N, Murphy MJ, Chopra R, Higgins JR, Maher MM. Investigation of the role of computed tomography as an adjunct to autopsy in the evaluation of stillbirth. European Journal of Radiology. 2012;81(7):1667-1675.

Link to Publication


Following stillbirth, post-mortem examination or autopsy may detect anomalies and reveal important information for counselling of parents. Imaging the stillborn baby using CT or MRI scanning is a less invasive option to an autopsy and may be a preferable choice for bereaved parents and clinicians. CT scanning has other advantages as the scans take less time and have fewer resource implications in most public hospitals. In this study, 14 parents gave consent to their stillborn infant having a CT scan after stillbirth in addition to the usual X-Ray examination; half of the cases also had a consented autopsy performed. Results from all tests were compared and showed that CT scans gave similar measurements and findings to autopsy, with some additional information given by the CT scans. The CT scans also offered high resolution 3-D images of the infants, with excellent pictures of anatomy and skeletal structures. More research is needed to look at improving the detail of the scan output as well as the possibility of taking samples of tissue at the time of the CT scan for more detailed investigation. CT scans have the potential to be an alternative to or an additional test alongside conventional autopsy in stillbirth.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,