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Antenatal antecedents of moderate or severe neonatal encephalopathy in term infants – a regional review


Correspondence: Dr MR Battin, Department of Paediatrics, National Women's Hospital, Private Bag 92 189, Auckland, New Zealand. Email:


Background: Regional audits of term infants with neonatal encephalopathy (NE) provide an opportunity to examine issues related to causation and quality of care.

Aim: To document antenatal and intrapartum antecedents in a contemporary cohort of term infants with moderate or severe neonatal encephalopathy.

Methods: Term infants admitted with moderate-severe neonatal encephalopathy over 4 years were identified. The clinical records were reviewed for information about the pregnancy and birth including interpretation of monitoring and subsequent management of the labour and delivery.

Results: Fifty-two maternal records were reviewed. No mothers were diabetic or had gestations > 42 weeks, but 17% of the babies were small for gestational age (SGA). The cohort had evidence of antenatal hypoxia in 15%, a sentinel event in 25% and suboptimal fetal monitoring practice in at least 42% of cases.

Conclusions: Peripartum events were the major contributors to neurological damage in infants with neonatal encephalopathy. Suboptimal fetal monitoring practice and sentinel events remain the most common contributors. Ongoing education and training to address these issues should be available to all involved with intrapartum care in New Zealand.