Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether funisitis (inflammation of the umbilical cord detected by histologic examination of the placenta) is associated with changes in the umbilical cord plasma concentration of interleukin 6, microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity, and neonatal sepsis.
Study design: The relationship among the presence of funisitis, interleukin 6 concentrations in umbilical cord plasma at birth, the results of amniotic fluid culture performed within 3 days of birth, and the occurrence of congenital neonatal sepsis was examined in 315 consecutive singleton preterm births (20-35 weeks' gestation). Funisitis was diagnosed in the presence of neutrophil infiltration into the umbilical vessel walls or Wharton jelly. The interleukin 6 concentration was measured with a specific immunoassay. Amniocentesis was performed in 106 patients within 3 days of birth. Amniotic fluid was cultured for aerobic and anaerobic bacteria and for mycoplasmas.
Results: (1) Funisitis was present in 25% of patients (78/315). (2) Patients with funisitis had a significantly higher median cord plasma interleukin 6 and a lower gestational age at birth than did those without funisitis (cord interleukin 6: median, 52.4 pg/mL; range, 0.9-19,230 pg/mL; vs median, 4.6 pg/mL; range, 0-18,108 pg/mL; gestational age: median, 31.1 weeks' gestation; range, 21.0-35.0 weeks' gestation; vs median, 32.9 weeks' gestation; range, 21.4-35.0 weeks' gestation; P<.001 for each comparison). (3) A cord plasma interleukin 6 of > or =17.5 pg/mL had a sensitivity of 70% and a specificity of 78% in the identification of funisitis. (4) Microbial invasion of the amniotic cavity and clinical chorioamnionitis were more common among patients with funisitis than among those without funisitis (positive amniotic fluid culture: 53% [20/38]; vs. 12% [8/68]; clinical chorioamnionitis: 18% [14/78]; vs. 4% [9/237]; P<.001 for each comparison). (5) Neonates with funisitis had a significantly higher rate of congenital sepsis than did those without this lesion (12% [8/66] vs. 1% [3/216]; P<.001); this difference remained significant after adjustment for gestational age at birth (odds ratio, 7.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.8-29.0).
Conclusion: (1) Umbilical cord plasma interleukin 6 concentrations were higher in neonates born with funisitis than in those without this lesion. (2) Funisitis is associated with amniotic fluid infection, congenital neonatal sepsis, and the fetal inflammatory response syndrome.