After the death of an infant, a thorough postmortem examination can provide needed answers. Fetal and infant autopsy can yield information about the cause of death and risk of recurrence in future pregnancies. It may also provide closure to grieving parents.
An article in Pediatric and Developmental Pathology introduces new software designed to assist pathologists through the process of infant autopsies.1 Using the computer program can save time, make reference materials easily accessible, and improve the quality of perinatal autopsy reports.
While many fetal and infant autopsies are performed by pathologists who are subspecialty trained in pediatric pathology, a significant number are performed by general pathologists or trainees. For these pathologists, the process can be intimidating and time-consuming. The most challenging aspects are appropriate assessments of fetal and neonatal growth parameters and maturational features.
Using the newly developed software, pathologists can enter infant weight and measurements and organ weights. The program generates a table that creates the best estimate for the infant’s corrected gestational age and highlights any value that falls out of normal range.
To put the new software to the test, pathology residents examined it for ease of use and benefits. Using conventional methods, such as books and Internet research, to access data on infant gestational age norms, the average time for novice and experienced residents to access needed data was 26.7 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively. Using features of the new software, this time was reduced to an average of 3.2 minutes.
The software is available at: http://cainmd.github.io/anthropometrydata. It is free to use and offers secure data entry. The program was created by Matthew D. Cain, MD, a pathology trainee at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), with oversight by Ona M. Faye-Petersen, MD, UAB professor of pathology and obstetrics and gynecology, and Joseph R. Siebert, PhD, professor of pathology at the University of Washington and director of the autopsy services program at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“This program furthers our ability to provide the best and most accurate information to parents who have lost an infant and to clinicians who seek to prevent stillbirth, improve pregnancy and infant outcomes, and reduce recurrence risks,” says Faye-Petersen. “These goals have long been my passion.”
1. Cain MD, Siebert JR, Iriabho E, Gruneberg A, Almeida JS, Faye-Petersen O. Development of novel software to generate anthropometric norms at perinatal autopsy. Pediatr Dev Pathol. 2015;18(3):203–209; doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2350/14-11-1578-OA.1