The adrenal glands of 41 fresh stillbirths were studied and a 'stress response' pattern could be seen in 28. In these glands the stress response was characterised by compact cell change, lipid depletion, excess pyroninophilia, and dilatation of the very prominent granular endoplasmic reticulum. Scattered areas of cytolysis of cells, especially of the definitive cortex, gave rise to the commonly seen cystic (pseudofollicular) change and it was obvious that cells undergoing lysis were severely 'stressed'. In 2 infants there was a 'clear cell reversal' pattern. Histological and ultrastructural changes of the stress response were not identified in 11. Infants of low birthweight score were somewhat more commonly represented in the group that did not show a stress response. Cytolytic changes accompanying a stress response were commoner in immature infants. It is argued that cystic (pseudofollicular) change in the adrenal cortex of the newborn signifies a previous stress reaction.
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