Human error most common cause of birth asphyxia

November 18, 2013

Findings from a 15-year study published in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, a journal of the Nordic Federation of Societies of Obstetrics and Gynecology, indicate that human error is the most common cause of infant asphyxiation at birth. Inadequate fetal monitoring, lack of clinical skills, and failure to obtain senior medical staff assistance are most often cited in Norwegian compensation claims following birth asphyxia.

In Norway there are roughly 60,000 births each year, with The Norwegian System of Compensation to Patients (NPE) receiving 65 claims for obstetric injury to the child. A previous study by the current research team found that asphyxia was the most common cause for compensation—between 20 and 25 cases annually. Prior research estimate that lifelong compensation for injury caused by averages about €430,000 ($574,000) in Norway, with costs more than 10 times higher in the U.S.

"While fetal brain injury or death is uncommon during childbirth, when it occurs the effects are devastating," explains Dr. Stine Andreasen with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Nordlandssykehuset (Nordland Hospital) in Bodø, Norway. "Our study investigates claims made to the NPE for or death following birth asphyxia."

For the present study, researchers examined 315 claims made to the NPE between 1994 and 2008 that were associated with alleged birth asphyxia. The team looked at hospital records, assessments by experts, along with NPE and courts of law decisions. Of the claims made, there were 161 cases that were awarded compensation.

Results show that in the compensated cases there were 107 infants who survived, with 96 having neurological injury, and 54 children who died. Human error was the most common cause of birth asphyxia with 50% attributed to inadeuate fetal monitoring, 14% lack of clinical knowledge, 11% non-compliance to clinical guidelines, 10% failure to ask for senior medical assistance, and 4% were errors in drug administration. In cases of substandard care, the obstetrician and midwife were documented as the responsible staff at 49% and 46%, respectively.

"In most compensated cases, poor fetal monitoring led to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the infant," concludes Dr. Andreasen. "Training for midwives and obstetricians, along with high-quality audits, could help to reduce claims for compensation after birth asphyxia."

Explore further: Is bigger really better when it comes to size of labor wards?

More information: Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, DOI: 10.1111/aogs.12276

Related Stories

Is bigger really better when it comes to size of labor wards?

September 9, 2013
those handling 3,000 to 3,999 deliveries annually—have better overall approval rates compared to small, intermediate or very large obstetric units. The study, appearing in Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, ...

Closing in on risk factors for cerebral palsy and infant death

September 9, 2013
Karin B. Nelson, M.D., scientist emeritus at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, and her colleagues from the University of Sydney, the University ...

Brainstem abnormalities found in 'SIDS' infants, in both safe and unsafe sleep environments

November 11, 2013
Investigators at Boston Children's Hospital report that infants dying suddenly and unexpectedly, in both safe and unsafe sleep environments, have underlying brainstem abnormalities and are not all normal prior to death.

Enzyme controlling cell death paves way for treatment of brain damage in newborns

October 25, 2011
where the brain is starved of oxygen around the time of delivery – is normally treated by cooling the infant, but this only helps one baby in nine. New research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, ...

Birth setting study signals significant risks in planned home birth

September 18, 2013
While the number of homebirths in the United States has grown over the last decade, researchers at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center have found that babies born at home are roughly 10 times as likely to be ...

Recommended for you

Sugar not so sweet for mental health

July 27, 2017
Sugar may be bad not only for your teeth and your waistline, but also your mental health, claimed a study Thursday that was met with scepticism by other experts.

Could insufficient sleep be adding centimeters to your waistline?

July 27, 2017
Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study.

Vitamin E-deficient embryos are cognitively impaired even after diet improves

July 27, 2017
Zebrafish deficient in vitamin E produce offspring beset by behavioral impairment and metabolic problems, new research at Oregon State University shows.

The role of dosage in assessing risk of hormone therapy for menopause

July 27, 2017
When it comes to assessing the risk of estrogen therapy for menopause, how the therapy is delivered—taking a pill versus wearing a patch on one's skin—doesn't affect risk or benefit, researchers at UCLA and elsewhere ...

Blowing smoke? E-cigarettes might help smokers quit

July 26, 2017
People who used e-cigarettes were more likely to kick the habit than those who didn't, a new study found.

Brain disease seen in most football players in large report

July 25, 2017
Research on 202 former football players found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of them, from athletes in the National Football League, college and even high school.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.