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.