Background: A proportion of neonatal deaths from asphyxia have been shown to be associated with pre-existing brain injury.
Objectives: (a) To compare the epidemiology of infants displaying signs of birth asphyxia with those not showing signs; (b) to examine the neuropathology and determine if possible the timing of brain insult comparing asphyxiated with non-asphyxiated infants; (c) to compare the clinical features of those born with birth asphyxia with and without pre-labour damage.
Methods: Over a two year period, all 22 Scottish delivery units collected clinical details on early neonatal deaths. Requests for post mortem included separate requests for detailed neuropathological examination of the brain. Infants were classified into two groups: birth asphyxia and non-birth asphyxia. Clinicopathological correlation was used to attempt to define the time of brain insult.
Results: Detailed clinical data were available on 137 of 174 early neonatal deaths that met the inclusion criteria. Seventy of 88 parents who had agreed to post mortem examination consented to a detailed examination of additional samples from the brain; in 53 of these cases the infant was born in an asphyxiated condition. All asphyxiated and encephalopathic infants, 38% of mature and 52% of preterm infants with features of birth asphyxia but without encephalopathy, and only one of 12 infants without any signs of birth asphyxia showed damage consistent with onset before the start of labour.
Conclusions: In a large proportion of neonatal deaths, brain injury predates the onset of labour. This is more common in infants born in an asphyxiated condition.
- birth asphyxia
- cohort study
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