Placental pathology: its impact on explaining prenatal and perinatal death
This review considers six main situations in which pathologists are expected to report and interpret placental messages for obstetricians, neonatologists and, indirectly, parents: (1) abortion is the body’s corrective response to the embryonic defect suggested by malformed chorionic villi; (2) infection causing chorionic villous inflammation is specific and haematogenous; pathogen identification is mandatory, in contrast to chorioamnionitis caused by increased local immunosuppression allowing indiscriminate bacterial entry; (3) prematurity and (4) intrauterine growth restriction are often associated with pregnancy-specific disease (pre-eclampsia) or pre-existing maternal conditions (systemic lupus); parental studies may improve outcome in subsequent pregnancies; (5) intrauterine death near term is often due to placental dysmaturity featuring a severely reduced number of syncytiocapillary membranes; it accounts for the death in utero of 3 in 1000 pregnancies; detection helps to minimise recurrence in subsequent pregnancies; (6) twins are best confirmed as monozygous by the absence of chorionic tissue in the dividing membranes; most monochorionic twins have vascular connections whose detailed analysis is requested only if there are inter-twin differences in growth and colour. From a formal point of view, many more bits of pathology than discussed in this review can be found in placentas and, with the advances in ultrasonography, might even be seen prior to birth. The extent of such a disturbance might ultimately affect fetal growth, which is amenable to prenatal detection offering the chances for an appropriate management. In contrast, dysmaturity is a great challenge as no predictive tests are as yet available.