In-utero transfer is too difficult: results from a prospective study

Early Hum Dev. 2012 Mar;88(3):147-50. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2011.07.016. Epub 2011 Aug 11.


Background: Perinatal transfer is an unavoidable part of neonatal care. In-utero as opposed to postnatal transfer is recommended whenever possible.

Aims: To quantify prevalence of in-utero transfers, determine the duration of time spent arranging in-utero transfers and whether failures in the organisation of potential in-utero transfers were occurring.

Study design: Prospective study of in-utero transfers referred and completed, and questionnaire study of failed potential in-utero transfers.

Subjects: Women referred to the Emergency Bed Service (EBS), women undergoing in-utero transfer by London Ambulance Service (LAS), and preterm infants undergoing postnatal transfer where in-utero transfer had been potentially achievable, in the London area, over a six month period in 2009.

Outcome measures: Number of in-utero transfers being undertaken, duration of time spent arranging in-utero transfer, and number of failed in-utero transfers.

Results: Over the study period LAS undertook 438 in-utero transfers and there were 338 referrals for in-utero transfer to EBS, of which 180 (53%) were successful. Of 69 emergency postnatal transfers of preterm infants (<29 weeks gestational age), 11 were classified as failed in-utero transfers. Median (IQR) duration of EBS involvement in in-utero referrals was 340 (200-696)min. A median (IQR) of 240 (150-308)min was spent contacting a median (IQR) of 7 (6-8)units when attempting to arrange in-utero transfer in the failed in-utero transfer group.

Conclusions: Arranging in-utero transfer consumes considerable clinical time; an important number of in-utero transfer attempts fail for non-clinical reasons; establishment of a centralised in-utero transfer planning service will save clinical time and may improve outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Medical Services
  • Female
  • Humans
  • London
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Transportation of Patients*