Methods: Rates and causes of traumatic injury-related fetal deaths in Pennsylvania were determined from a manual review of all fetal death certificates filed from 1995 to 1997 (7,131 cases).
Results: Thirty one traumatic injury cases were identified (6.5/100,000 live births). Most cases (94%) could be identified from the diagnosis code of 760.5 (maternal injury) and 87% contained narratives indicating specific injury mechanisms. Motor vehicles were the leading cause of injury (81%). Placental separation was the leading diagnosis (42%).
Conclusions: The ICD-9-CM code 760.5 appears to be a specific indicator of traumatic fetal death, though it is not known how sensitive an indicator it is. Though not usually E-coded, the death certificates contained enough information to allow ascertainment of injury mechanism. These are very conservative estimates of the burden of the problem. The major role that motor vehicle injuries have on reported traumatic fetal injury deaths was shown and a significant new challenge for child passenger safety advocates is indicated.