Meconium aspiration syndrome: A role for fetal systemic inflammation

Joonho Lee, Roberto Romero, Kyung A. Lee, Eun Na Kim, Steven J. Korzeniewski, Piya Chaemsaithong, Bo Hyun Yoon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Background Meconium aspiration syndrome (MAS) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in term infants. Meconium-stained amniotic fluid (MSAF) occurs in approximately 1 of every 7 pregnancies, but only 5% of neonates exposed to MSAF develop MAS. Why some infants exposed to meconium develop MAS while others do not is a fundamental question. Patients with MSAF have a higher frequency of intraamniotic inflammation/infection than those with clear fluid. We propose that fetal systemic inflammation is a risk factor for the development of MAS in patients with MSAF. Objective We sought to investigate whether intraamniotic inflammation and funisitis, the histopathologic landmark of a fetal inflammatory response, predispose to MAS. Study Design A prospective cohort study was conducted from 1995 through 2009. Amniotic fluid (AF) samples (n = 1281) were collected at the time of cesarean delivery from women who delivered singleton newborns at term (gestational age ≥38 weeks). Intraamniotic inflammation was diagnosed if the AF concentration of matrix metalloproteinase-8 was >23 ng/mL. Funisitis was diagnosed by histologic examination if inflammation was present in the umbilical cord. Results The prevalence of MSAF was 9.2% (118/1281), and 10.2% (12/118) of neonates exposed to MSAF developed MAS. There were no significant differences in the median gestational age or umbilical cord arterial pH at birth between neonates who developed MAS and those who did not (each P >.1). Mothers whose newborns developed MAS had a higher median of AF matrix metalloproteinase-8 (456.8 vs 157.2 ng/mL, P <.05). Newborns exposed to intraamniotic inflammation had a higher rate of MAS than those who were not exposed to intraamniotic inflammation [13.0% (10/77) vs 0% (0/32), P =.03], as did those exposed to funisitis [31.3% (5/16) vs 7.3% (6/82); relative risk, 4.3; 95% confidence interval, 1.5-12.3]. Among the 89 newborns for whom both AF and placental histology were available, MAS was more common in patients with both intraamniotic inflammation and funisitis than in those without intraamniotic inflammation and funisitis [28.6% (4/14) vs 0% (0/28), P =.009], while the rate of MAS did not show a significant difference between patients with intraamniotic inflammation alone (without funisitis) and those without intraamniotic inflammation and funisitis [10.9% (5/46) vs 0% (0/28)]. Conclusion The combination of intraamniotic inflammation with fetal systemic inflammation is an important antecedent of MAS. This concept has implications for the understanding of the mechanisms of disease responsible for MAS and for the development of prognostic models and therapeutic interventions for this disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)366.e1-366.e9
JournalAmerican Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Mar 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Supported by Grant No. 03-2011-0200 from Seoul National University Hospital , Republic of Korea, and a grant from the Korean Health Technology R&D Project through the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI), funded by the Ministry of Health & Welfare, Republic of Korea (Grant No. HI12C0768 ). This work was also supported, in part, by the Perinatology Research Branch, Division of Intramural Research, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health/US Department of Health and Human Services.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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