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Re-examining the arterial cord blood gas pH screening criteria in neonatal encephalopathy
  1. Zachary Andrew Vesoulis1,
  2. Steve M Liao1,
  3. Rakesh Rao1,
  4. Shamik B Trivedi1,
  5. Alison G Cahill2,
  6. Amit M Mathur2
  1. 1 Division of Newborn Medicine, Edward Mallinckrodt Department of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  2. 2 Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Zachary Andrew Vesoulis, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Newborn Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110, USA; vesoulis_z{at}


Objective Screening criteria for neonatal encephalopathy remain a complex combination of subjective and objective criteria. We examine the utility of universal cord blood gas testing and mandatory encephalopathy evaluation for infants with pH ≤7.10 on umbilical cord arterial blood gas (cABG) as a single screening measure for timely identification of moderate/severe encephalopathy.

Design, setting, patients Infants born at a single centre between 2008 and 2015, who were ≥36 weeks, had no congenital anomalies and had a cABG pH ≤7.10 were identified for a retrospective cohort study. Maternal/perinatal and patient factors were collected.

Results 27 028 infants were born during the study period; 412 met all inclusion criteria. Of those, 35/85 infants with pH <7.00 and 34/327 infants with pH between 7.00 and 7.10 had moderate/severe encephalopathy. Encephalopathy was identified on the basis of pH and examination alone (no other perinatal criteria present) in 5/35 and 13/34 infants in the two pH groups, respectively.

A cABG pH threshold of ≤7.10 was associated with a sensitivity of 74.2% and a specificity of 98.7% for detection of moderate/severe encephalopathy. Based on these data, 25 infants with cABG pH between 7.00 and 7.10 will need to be screened to identify one neonate with moderate/severe encephalopathy, who might have otherwise been missed using conventional screening, a 15% increase in appropriate selection and treatment over current methods.

Conclusion Universal cord blood gas screening with a pH threshold ≤7.10 and mandatory encephalopathy examination results in greater detection of infants with moderate/severe encephalopathy and timely initiation of therapeutic hypothermia.

  • neonatology
  • neurology

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  • Contributors ZAV conceptualised the idea, collected data, performed analysis, wrote the initial manuscript and approved final product. SML and AMM participated in study design, participated in data collection, provided critical review of the manuscript and approved the final product. RR, SBT and AGC participated in study design, provided critical review of the manuscript and approved final product.

  • Funding 1. Washington University Institute of Clinical and Translational Sciences KL2 Training Program (NIH/NCATS KL2 TR000450). 2. Washington University in St. Louis Center for Biomedical Informatics, Clinical Investigation Data Exploration Repository (NIH/NCATS UL1 TR000448).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Washington University Human Research Protection Office.

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

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