The stillbirth classification system for the safe passage study: Incorporating mechanism, etiology, and recurrence

PASS Network

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective: Describe the classification system for assigning the cause of stillbirth in the Safe Passage Study, an international, multi-institutional, prospective analysis conducted by the NIAAA/NICHD-funded Prenatal Alcohol in SIDS and Stillbirth (PASS) Research Network. The study mission is to determine the role of prenatal alcohol and/or cigarette smoke exposure in adverse pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth, in a high-risk cohort of 12,000 maternal/fetal dyads. Methods: The PASS Network classification system is based upon 5 ‘‘sites of origin’’ for cause of stillbirth, further subdivided into mechanism subcategories; both are employed to assign an ultimate cause of death. Each PASS stillbirth was assigned a cause of death and status of sporadic versus recurrent. Adjudication involved review of maternal and obstetrical records; fetal autopsy and placental findings; and required complete consensus in each case. Two published classification systems, ie, INCODE and ReCoDe, were used for comparison. Results: Causes of stillbirth classified were fetal (26%), placental (53%), external (5%), and undetermined (16%). Nine cases (47%) had placental causes of death due to maternal disorders that carry recurrence risks. There was full agreement for cause of death across the 3 classification systems in 26% of cases and partial agreement among them in 42% of cases. Conclusions: The proposed PASS schema employs a user-friendly classification that provides comparable information to previously published systems. Advantages include its simplicity, mechanistic formulations, tight clinicopathologic integration, provision for an undetermined category, and its wide applicability to perinatal mortality review boards with access to information routinely collected during clinicopathologic evaluations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-132
Number of pages13
JournalPediatric and Developmental Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017


  • Autopsy
  • Human fetus
  • Placenta
  • Prenatal alcohol exposure
  • Prenatal cigarette smoking exposure
  • Undetermined stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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