Intrapartum fever and chorioamnionitis as risks for encephalopathy in term newborns: a case–control study


* Correspondence to first author at Division of Pediatric Neurology, Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, 4800 Sand Point Way, Mailstop: B-5552, Seattle, WA 98105, USA. E-mail:


In this study we examined the relationship between diagnoses of isolated intrapartum fever or chorioamnionitis and the risk of encephalopathy in term newborns. We conducted a population-based, case—control study in Washington State using 1994 to 2002 linked data from the Washington State Birth Registry and the Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System (CHARS). We identified 1060 singleton, term newborns (602 males, 458 females) with International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9) diagnoses consistent with encephalopathy, and 5330 unaffected control newborns (2756 males, 2574 females). Intrapartum fever was defined by a diagnosis of intrapartum temperature of >38°C in the birth registry or CHARS databases. Chorioamnionitis was defined using ICD-9 diagnoses recorded in CHARS. We identified 2.2 cases of encephalopathy per 1000 births. Isolated intrapartum fever was associated with a 3.1-fold (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.3-4.2) increased risk of newborn encephalopathy. Chorioamnionitis was associated with a 5.4-fold (95% CI 3.6-7.8) increased risk of encephalopathy. We found that isolated intrapartum fever and chorioamnionitis were independently associated with an increased risk of encephalopathy in term infants. Our data also indicate that there is a spectrum of risk for encephalopathy in term infants exposed to intrapartum fever. Infants born to women with signs of chorioamnionitis other than isolated intrapartum fever may be at higher risk of encephalopathy than those exposed only to isolated intrapartum fever.

List of abbreviations

Comprehensive Hospital Abstract Reporting System


Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy


International Classification of Diseases, 9th revision


Neonatal encephalopathy