Objective: Our goal was to review the perinatal characteristics of 48 singleton term infants with central nervous system neurologic impairment.
Study design: Medical records were retrospectively reviewed for maternal characteristics, prenatal and intrapartum care patterns, neonatal course, and long-term outcome. Those patients without evidence of an obvious acute asphyxial event, traumatic delivery, or preterm birth were excluded. The study population was then subclassified according to the admission fetal heart rate pattern.
Results: Of these 48 term infants the admission fetal heart rate pattern was nonreactive in 33 (69%) and reactive in 15 (31%). Maternal characteristics, prenatal care, and long-term outcome were statistically similar between the two groups. However, the nonreactive group exhibited significantly more characteristics consistent with a prior asphyxial event: thick "old" meconium, "fixed" nonreactive baseline fetal heart rate, meconium-stained skin, and meconium aspiration syndrome. In contrast, in the reactive group a fetal heart rate pattern developed that was consistent with Hon's theory for intrapartum asphyxia and manifested by a prolonged tachycardia in association with persistent nonreactivity, diminished fetal heart rate variability, and fetal heart rate decelerations.
Conclusions: Among fetuses later found to be neurologically impaired, a persistent nonreactive fetal heart rate tracing obtained from admission to delivery appears to be evidence of prior neurologic injury.