Moderate to severe neonatal encephalopathy with suspected hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy in cooled term infants born in Tygerberg Academic Hospital: Characteristics of fetal monitoring and modifiable factors
Background. In South Africa, in babies >2 500 g, intrapartum asphyxia is the main cause of neonatal death or stillbirth in those who were alive prior to labour. In a developing population, ~60% of neonatal encephalopathy (NE) has evidence of intrapartum hypoxic ischaemia. Therapeutic hypothermia for term babies born with NE can improve neonatal prognosis and long-term survival.
Objectives. To identify the healthcare worker- and system-related modifiable factor(s) that were associated with NE in babies of ≥36 weeks’ gestation born at Tygerberg Hospital (a secondary/tertiary referral hospital) between 1 January 2016 and 30 December 2018.
Methods. This was an observational cross-sectional study analysing data from the Tygerberg Hospital Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy database, the electronic labour ward register, the mortality database and clinical data from patient folders.
Results. A total of 118 babies were admitted for head cooling, and therefore included in the study. The hospital in-born rate for serious encephalopathy is 5.5/1 000 in singleton live-born babies (9/1 000 rate for live-born deliveries ≥36 weeks). A sentinel event was identified in 19 (16%) cases. Delay in accessing theatre was the main system-related modifiable factor (25/58 or 43% of cases delivered by emergency caesarean delivery). The average decision-to-incision time was 1 hour 40 minutes, while the average bed occupancy in the emergency maternity centre was 102%. Failure to recognise or respond to an abnormal cardiotocograph was the dominant avoidable factor related to healthcare workers in 34 cases (36.4%).
Conclusion. Babies born with severe NE place a burden on parents, healthcare staff and resources. Careful intrapartum care, including utilisation of protocols for the use of oxytocin, are imperative. It is recommended that improved access to emergency theatres and appropriately trained staff for maternity units should be a priority for healthcare planners.
T Adams, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
D Mason, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
G S Gebhardt, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University and Tygerberg Academic Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa
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Date published: 2022-07-22
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