Pathology of the Central Autonomic Nervous System in Stillbirth

Luigi Matturri*, Anna Maria Lavezzi
Institute of Pathology, University of Milan, Via della Commenda, 19, 20122 Milan, Italy.

© 2007 Matturri and Lavezzi

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Institute of Pathology, University of Milan, Via della Commenda, 19, 20122 Milan, Italy; Tel: +39-02- 50320800; Fax: +39-02-50320823; E-mail:


The aim of this study was to identify in stillbirth a possible involvement of morphological and/or physiological alterations of structures of the central autonomic nervous system in the mechanism of death. The study, including the indepth histological examination of brainstem and cerebellum, was performed on 42 stillbirths, aged from 22 to 40 gestational weeks, 12 of which were explained and 30 were unexplained deaths.

In the sudden unexplained stillbirths a variety of morphological and/or biological abnormalities of different structures and nuclei was found, above all the hypoplasia of the parafacial complex, frequently associated with hypoplasia of the arcuate and pre-Bötzinger nuclei, and with thyrosine-hydroxylase immunonegativity in the locus coeruleus. A significant correlation was also observed between the neuropathologic findings and mother’s smoking habit.

Keywords: Stillbirth, central autonomic nervous system, brainstem, neuropathology, developmental alterations.