Anatomy of the Ductus Arteriosus in Fetal Autopsies: Correlations With Placental Pathology and Cause of Death

Linda M Ernst*, Alexa Freedman, Erica Price, Andrew Franklin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Differences in the shape of the ductus arteriosus (DA), an important vascular shunt between the pulmonary artery and aorta, may reflect fetoplacental blood flow. Our aim was to examine tapering of the DA in a fetal autopsy population and correlate it with placental pathology and cause of death (COD). Methods: This autopsy case control study of stillborn fetuses selected cases (tapered DA) and consecutive age-matched controls (no DA tapering) between January 2017 and January 2022. We abstracted demographic and clinical data from pathology reports. Autopsy data included COD and histologic evidence of fetal hypoxia. Placental pathology included umbilical cord abnormalities, acute and chronic inflammation, fetal vascular malperfusion (FVM), and maternal vascular malperfusion (MVM). Results: We identified 50 cases and 50 controls. Gestational age ranged from 18 to 38 weeks. Maternal and fetal demographic characteristics did not differ significantly between cases and controls. COD related to an umbilical cord accident/FVM was significantly more prevalent in cases vs controls (46% vs 26%, P =.037), and FVM in the placenta, regardless of COD, trended higher in cases than controls. Conclusion: Tapering of the DA is present in stillborn fetuses and associated with COD related to fetal vascular blood flow obstruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-393
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric and Developmental Pathology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023


  • autopsy
  • cause of death
  • ductus arteriosus
  • fetal vascular malperfusion
  • placenta
  • umbilical cord accident

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Anatomy of the Ductus Arteriosus in Fetal Autopsies: Correlations With Placental Pathology and Cause of Death'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this