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Measurement of neonatal heart rate using handheld Doppler ultrasound
  1. Amanda Dyson1,
  2. Michele Jeffrey1,
  3. Martin Kluckow1,2
  1. 1Royal North Shore Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Amanda Dyson, Grace Centre for Newborn Care, The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Hawkesbury Road, Westmead, NSW 2145, Australia; amandadyson{at}


Objective This pilot study aimed to determine whether handheld Doppler ultrasound is feasible and reliable for measuring neonatal heart rate (HR) when compared with ECG.

Setting Stable newborns were recruited from the neonatal intensive care unit and postnatal ward between July 2014 and January 2015 at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

Interventions Each newborn had their HR recorded every 15 s over 145 s using four different modalities: ECG, counted audible Doppler (AD) over 10 s, pulse oximetry (PO) and the Doppler display (DD).

Outcome measures The correlation and variation between each modality and ECG.

Results 51 newborns with a median gestational age of 38 weeks (27–41) and a mean weight of 2.78 kg (0.82 to 4.76) with a median postnatal age of 3 days (0–87) were studied. There was a mean difference of 0.69 bpm (95% CI −2.9 to +1.5) between AD-HR and ECG-HR with good correlation between modalities (r=0.94, p<0.01). The median time to achieve AD-HR was 3 s (1–45). The mean difference between DD-HR and ECG-HR was 5.37 bpm (95% CI −12.8 to +2.1) with moderate correlation (r=0.37, p=0.04). The mean difference between PO-HR and ECG-HR was 0.49 bpm (95% CI −1.5 to +0.51) with good correlation (r=0.99, p<0.01). The variability between AD-HR and ECG-HR decreased with decreasing weight.

Conclusions AD-HR correlates well with ECG-HR. Further research in the delivery room is recommended before using AD-HR in this area.

  • heart rate
  • neonate
  • Doppler
  • neonatal resuscitation

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  • Contributors AD and MK designed this study in discussion with MJ. AD and MJ implemented the study protocol, performed the data collection and results analysis. All authors were involved in reviewing the final version of the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval This study was approved by the human research ethics committee of The Northern Sydney Local Health District (RESP/14/127).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Questions about the data should be directed to the corresponding author (Amanda Dyson).