Early Identification of Preterm Neonates at Birth With a Tablet App for the Simplified Gestational Age Score (T-SGAS) When Ultrasound Gestational Age Dating Is Unavailable: Protocol for a Validation Study

JMIR Res Protoc. 2019 Mar 12;8(3):e11913. doi: 10.2196/11913.


Background: Although rates of preterm birth continue to increase globally, identification of preterm from low birth weight infants remains a challenge. The burden of low birth weight vs preterm is greatest in resource-limited settings, where gestational age (GA) prior to delivery is frequently not known because ultrasound in early pregnancy is not available and estimates of the date of the mother's last menstrual period (LMP) may not be reliable. An alternative option is to assess GA at birth to optimize referral and care of preterm newborns. We previously developed and pilot-tested a system to measure the simplified gestational age score (SGAS) based on 4 easily observable neonatal characteristics.

Objective: The objective of this study is to adapt the scoring system as a tablet app (potentially scalable approach) to assess feasibility of use and to validate whether the scoring system accurately predicts prematurity by itself, over and above birth weight in a large sample of newborns.

Methods: The study is based in Nagpur, India, at the Research Unit of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development's Global Network for Women's and Children's Health Research. The Android tablet app for the SGAS (T-SGAS) displays de-identified photographs of skin, breasts, and genitalia across a range of GAs and line drawings of infant posture. Each item is associated with a score. The user is trained to choose the photograph or line drawing that most closely matches the newborn being evaluated, and the app determines the neonate's GA category (preterm or term) from the cumulative score. The validation study will be conducted in 3 second level care facilities (most deliveries in India occur in hospitals, and women known to be at risk of preterm birth are referred to second level care facilities). Within 24 hours of delivery, women and their babies who are stable will be enrolled in the study. Two auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) blinded to prior GA assessments will use the T-SGAS to estimate the GA status of the newborn. An independent data collector will abstract the GA from the ultrasound recorded in the hospital chart and record the date of the mother's LMP. Eligibility for analysis is determined by the ultrasound and LMP data being collected within 1 week of each other to have a rigorous assessment of true GA.

Results: Publication of the results of the study is anticipated in 2019.

Conclusions: Until GA dating by ultrasound is universally available and easy to use in resource-limited settings, and where there are restrictions on ultrasound use due to their use for sex determination and abortion of female fetuses, this study will determine whether the T-SGAS app can accurately assess GA in risk categories at birth.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02408783; https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02408783 (Archived by Webcite at http://www.webcitation.org/75S2kmr3T).

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/11913.

Keywords: gestational age assessment; last menstrual period; mHealth; newborn; prematurity; ultrasound.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02408783