Objective To compare postmortem magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with autopsy in perinatal deaths. To determine the acceptance and feasibility of postmortem perinatal MRI.
Design Cohort study.
Setting Large teaching hospital.
Population Fetuses and neonates from 16 weeks gestational age until 28 days after birth, stillbirths as well as intrapartum and neonatal deaths.
Methods MRI was performed prior to autopsy in a consecutive cohort of perinatal deaths after full parental consent. Agreement between MRI and autopsy was calculated. The consent rate for both examinations was recorded separately, as well as the time between the perinatal death and the MRI.
Main outcome measure Full agreement between MRI and autopsy.
Results Of 58 cases, 26 parents consented to both examinations (45%). Autopsy showed 18 major malformations, of which 10 were detected with MRI. The positive predictive value of MRI was 80% (4/5) and the negative predictive value was 65% (13/20). Additional consent for MRI was given in eight cases (14%). In 84%, the MRI could be performed within 48 hours.
Conclusions MRI is of value if autopsy is refused, but diagnostic accuracy is insufficient to recommend substitution of full autopsy. The acceptance rate of MRI only is better than that of autopsy.