Delivery room deaths of extremely preterm babies: an observational study

Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed. 2017 Mar;102(2):F98-F103. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2016-310718. Epub 2016 Aug 16.


Objective: Many extremely preterm neonates die in the delivery room (DR) after decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments or after failed resuscitation. Specific palliative care is then recommended but sparse data exist about the actual management of these dying babies. The objective of this study was to describe the clinical course and management of neonates born between 22 and 26 weeks of gestation who died in the DR in France.

Design, setting, patients: Prospective study including neonates, who were liveborn between 22+0 and 26+6 weeks of gestation and died in the DR in 2011, among infants included in the EPIPAGE-2 study at the 18 centres participating in this substudy of extremely preterm neonates. Data were collected by a questionnaire completed by the professional caring for each baby.

Results: The study included 73 children, with a median (IQR) gestational age of 24 (23-24) weeks. Median (IQR) duration of life was 53 (20-82) min. All but one were both wrapped and warmed. Pain was assessed for 72%, although without using any scale. Gasping was described for 66%. Comfort medications were administered to 35 children (50%), significantly more frequently to babies with gasping (p=0.001). Mother-child contact was reported for 78%, and psychological support offered to parents of 92%.

Conclusions: Non-pharmacological comfort care and parental support were routinely given. Comfort medication was given much more frequently than previously reported in other DRs. These data should encourage work on the indications for comfort medication and the interpretation of gasping.

Keywords: Palliative Care; comfort care; delivery room; dying; extreme prematurity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Delivery Rooms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Extremely Premature*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Palliative Care
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires