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Substandard care in delivery-related asphyxia among term infants: prospective cohort study


  • Conflict of interest The authors have stated explicitly that there are no conflicts of interest in connection with this article.

A. C. C. Evers, MD, PhD, University Medical Center Utrecht, location WKZ, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, PO Box 85090, 3508 AB Utrecht, the Netherlands. E-mail:


Objective. To assess substandard care factors in the case of delivery-related asphyxia. Design. Prospective cohort study. Setting. Catchment area of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the University Medical Center Utrecht; a region in the middle of the Netherlands covering 13% of the Dutch population. Population. Term infants, without congenital malformations, who died intrapartum or were admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit due to asphyxia. Methods. During a two-year period, cases were prospectively collected and audited by an expert panel. Main outcome measures. Substandard care factors. Results. 37 735 term infants without congenital malformations were born. There were 19 intrapartum deaths, and 89 NICU admissions of which 12 neonates died. In 63 (58%) cases a substandard care factor was identified that was possibly (n= 47, 43%) or probably (n= 16, 15%) related to perinatal death or NICU admission. In primary care, substandard care factors were mainly the low frequency of examination during labor and delay in referral to secondary care. In secondary care, misinterpretation of cardiotocography and failure to respond adequately to clinical signs of fetal distress were the most common substandard care factors. Conclusions. Substandard care is present in a substantial number of cases with delivery-related asphyxia resulting in perinatal death or NICU admission. Improving the organization of obstetric care in the Netherlands as well as training of obstetric caregivers might reduce adverse outcomes.

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