Background: One of the most feared complications in medicine is hypoxic brain damage to a newborn. The authors investigated the circumstances of registered peripartum hypoxic brain injuries in order to identify potential opportunities to improve patient safety and prevent injuries.
Methods: The authors retrospectively investigated peripartum hypoxic brain injuries registered by the Danish Patient Insurance Association.
Results: From 1992 to 2004, 127 approved claims concerning peripartum hypoxic brain injuries were registered and subsequently analysed. Thirty-eight newborns died, and a majority of the 89 surviving children suffered from major handicaps, primarily cerebral palsy. In 69 of the cases, misinterpretation of or late action on an abnormal cardiotocography (CTG) were the reasons for the majority of the hypoxic brain injuries.
Conclusions: All injuries could potentially have been avoided using established obstetric practice. CTGs are often misinterpreted. In the authors' opinion, education and training in CTG interpretation is essential. The use of ST-analysis of the fetus ECG (STAN) could probably reduce the number of these injuries.