Recent epidemiological interest has focused on separation of neural tube defects (NTD) into subgroups which may differ pathogenetically and aetiologically, for example, 'upper' and 'lower' spina bifida. In order to validate the use of pathologists' lesion descriptions by epidemiologists and others, a postal survey of 18 European perinatal pathologists, identified by EUROCAT registries, was conducted. Pathologists were asked, anonymously, to describe and identify the lesions in 15 photographs of midtrimester termination fetuses. There was a 50% response rate. Even taking into consideration the limitations of dealing with photographs rather than the fetuses themselves, there was often marked variation in the descriptions. Standardisation of terminology and international consensus about the type of detail recorded for NTD are urgently needed.
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