Intercenter variation in Autopsy practices in regional NICUs
Objective: To characterize infants who underwent autopsy in regional neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and examine inter-center variability in autopsy completion. Study design: Retrospective cohort study of infants who died between 2010 and 2016 from 32 participating hospitals in the Children's Hospital Neonatal Database (CHND). Maternal/infant demographics and hospital stay data were collected, along with autopsy rates by center, year, and region. Data analysis utilized bivariate and multivariable statistics. Result: Of 6299 deaths, 1742 (27.7%) completed autopsy. Infants who underwent autopsy had higher median birth weight (2 124 g vs. 1 655 g) and gestational age (34 vs. 32 weeks). No differences were seen in sex, length of stay, or primary cause of death. Marked inter-center variability was observed, with 17-fold adjusted difference (p < 0.001) in autopsy rates. Conclusion: Patient characteristics do not account for variability in autopsy practices across regional NICUs. Factors such as provider practices and parental preferences should be investigated.