Grossing, features to report & standard diagnostic report

Topic Completed: 1 December 2011

Minor changes: 29 September 2020

Copyright: 2002-2021,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Gross[title] placenta

Mandolin S. Ziadie, M.D.
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Cite this page: Ziadie MS. Grossing, features to report & standard diagnostic report. website. Accessed December 8th, 2021.
Strategies and indications for placental examination
  • Institutions vary widely on the strategies they use to determine which placentas are examined
  • Some of these include "embed and hold," examination performed for specific indications or examination of all placentas

Specific indications include:
  • Clinician concern
  • Maternal conditions (diabetes, hypertension, prematurity, postmaturity, history of reproductive failure, oligohydramnios, fever, infection, substance abuse, repetitive bleeding and retroplacental hematoma)
  • Fetal conditions (stillbirth or perinatal death, multiple births, congenital abnormalities, growth retardation, prematurity, hydrops, thick meconium, admission to intensive care, APGAR score of 0 - 3 at 5 minutes, neurologic problems, fever and infection)
  • Gross placental abnormalities
  • Measure the point of membrane tear nearest to the disc, if identifiable
  • Evaluate the color, odor and opacity of the membranes:
    • Yellow gray is suspicious for chorioamnionitis
    • Green brown is suspicious for meconium
    • Describe the membranous insertion (normal / marginal, circummarginate or circumvallate)
    • Membranes may double back on themselves to form a constricted, thick rim around the placental disk (circumvallate insertion) or wider, thin rim (circummarginate insertion)
    • Percent of circumvallate insertion should be evaluated
    • Sample of the circumvallate insertion site should be obtained and submitted as an additional disc section
  • Strip of membrane, including the point of membrane tear, should be obtained
  • Beginning with the point of tear, the strip is rolled around a long, thin probe with the amnion facing inward
  • Roll is then fixed for a minute with an acidic fixative (e.g. acetic acid) and sectioned
  • At least two spiral cross sections should be submitted
  • Trim the remaining membranes from the margin
Umbilical cord
  • Color
  • Insertion (central, eccentric, marginal or velamentous)
  • When the cord is inserted within the membranes (velamentous insertion), the intramembranous vessels, unprotected by Wharton jelly, are at greater risk for compression and rupture
  • Their presence and intactness within the membranes should be assessed
  • Cord's number of vessels should be assessed in the middle or fetal third of the cord to avoid miscounting caused by occasional vessel fusion near the placental surface
  • Note the presence of any other abnormalities (hematomas, cord knots, strictures, thrombi or necrosis)
  • Sample at least two representative sections of the cord (one from the fetal end and one from the placental end) at areas away from sites of trauma
  • Any abnormalities should also be sampled
  • All measurements, including weight, should be obtained after removing the umbilical cord, fetal membranes and nonadherent blood clots
  • Measure the disc in three dimensions (greatest major and minor horizontal lengths and thickness) and weigh it
  • Placental weight should be compared to a table of standards based on estimated gestational age
  • Describe the placenta's shape and location
  • Placentas may have one or more lobes that may or may not be connected
  • Observe the fetal surface, which is usually shiny, red grey and semitranslucent with vessels coursing over its surface
  • It should be assessed for color, opacity, subchorionic fibrin (thick, pale deposits), subchorionic hematomas, squamous metaplasia, amnion nodosum or other lesions
  • Flip the placenta and evaluate the maternal surface, which (in the term infant) is dark red and divided into lobules or cotyledons
  • Extremely preterm placentas may be pink or tan
  • Placental disc should be inspected for color, intactness, adherent clot or hemorrhage and any other lesions
  • Missing cotyledons or extremely fragmented parenchyma, which may be indications of retained placenta, should be noted
  • Serially section the disc at 1 to 2 cm intervals and examine each slice for intraparenchymal lesions (e.g. masses, pale infarcts, lace-like bands, etc.)
  • Size of all abnormal lesions should be estimated based on the percentage of the disc they occupy
  • Obtain at least two full thickness sections (including maternal and fetal surfaces) from separate, central areas of the disc
  • Sections of any grossly identified abnormalities should be submitted in addition to these
  • Sections of thick discs may need to be halved and placed into two cassettes in order to provide complete sections (including both maternal and fetal surfaces)
Special considerations for twin placentas
  • In addition to the standard features evaluated on gross examination of the placenta, there are special considerations when examining placentas from multiple gestations
  • Most important key to examination is to ensure that descriptions and sections are clearly marked for each twin
  • Include the number of discs (single or multiple), features of the dividing membranes (which may give a gross suggestion as to chorionicity: thin translucent membranes on a single disc are monochorionic, while thick, ridge forming membranes on a single or dual disc are dichorionic), discordant size or appearance and presence of vascular anastamoses (which may indicate a twin - twin transfusion syndrome in monochorionic twins)
  • In addition to the standard sections described above, representative sections of the dividing membranes and of any vascular anastamoses should be submitted
  • Caused by: freezing placenta (distorts villi, obscures meconium), Bouin fixative (obscures Fusobacterium, hinders cytochemical staining), formalin fixation (distends fetal vessels, increases weight by 8%, Arch Pathol Lab Med 1991;115:726)
Gross dictation
  • Received in _____, labeled _______, is a discoid placenta that weighs ____ g when trimmed of membranes and cord
  • Membranes are tan brown and translucent with minimal adherent blood clot
  • Cord is inserted ___, has __ vessels, is __ cm long and __ cm in diameter
  • Maternal surface is intact
  • Fetal surface is unremarkable
  • Cut surfaces show beefy red parenchyma but no significant areas of infarct or hemorrhage or other gross abnormalities (or describe any gross abnormalities as appropriate)
Features to report
  • Anatomic site and location
  • Procedure (D&C, hysterectomy, etc.)
  • Size
  • Histologic type
  • Histologic grade
  • Type of invasion (infiltrating, pushing or mixed) and depth of invasion
  • Angiolymphatic invasion
  • Invasion into adjacent organs
  • Margins
  • Presence and type of fetal tissue / fetal anomalies
  • Lymph nodes: total assessed, total positive, location and size
  • Results of special stains / ancillary tests

Standard diagnostic report
Clinical history:
  • GaPbcde
    • Ga: gravid (number of pregnancies, including the present if pregnant now)
    • Pb: para (number of live births)
    • Pc: number of preterm births
    • Pd: number of first trimester losses (elective or spontaneous)
    • Pe: number of living children at present
  • Maternal age
  • Estimated gestational age
  • Maternal history (diseases, pregnancy complications, etc.)
  • Delivery complications

  • __ trimester placenta (list weight):
  • No chorioamnionitis, no villitis and no funisitis (or pertinent positive microscopic and gross findings)
  • Comments regarding prognostic effect on fetus are discouraged
Additional references
Practice guidelines from CAP:
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