Objective Informed consent is standard in research. International guidelines allow for research without prior consent in emergent situations, such as neonatal resuscitation. Research without prior consent was incorporated in the Vermont Oxford Network Heat Loss Prevention Trial. We evaluated whether significant differences in outcomes exist based on the consent method.
Design Subgroup analysis of infants enrolled in a randomised controlled trial conducted from 2004 to 2010.
Setting A multicentre trial with 38 participating centres.
Participants Infants born 24–27 weeks of gestation. 3048 infants assessed, 2231 excluded due to fetal congenital anomalies, failure to obtain consent or gestation less than 24 weeks. 817 randomised, 4 withdrew consent, total of 813 analysed.
Main outcome measure The difference in mortality between consent groups.
Results No significant differences were found in mortality at 36 weeks (80.2%, 77.4%, p=0.492) or 6 months corrected gestational age (80.7%, 79.7%, p=0.765). Infants enrolled after informed consent were more likely to have mothers who had received antenatal steroids (95.2%, 84.0%, p<0.0001). They also had significantly higher Apgar scores at 1 (5.0, 4.4, p=0.019), 5 (7.3, 6.7, p=0.025) and 10 min (7.5, 6.3, p=0.0003).
Conclusions and relevance Research without prior consent resulted in the inclusion of infants with different baseline characteristics than those enrolled after informed consent. There were no significant differences in mortality. Significantly higher Apgar scores in the informed consent group suggest that some of the sicker infants would have been excluded from enrolment under informed consent. Research without prior consent should be considered in neonatal resuscitation research.
- general paediatrics
- paediatric practice
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Funding Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (MCT 71137 HELP Vohra) and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation (Edmonton, Canada; G599000746). SV receives salary support as an Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Health Scholar (G118160495). RS receives salary support as the director of trials and follow-up at Vermont Oxford Network.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data availability statement Data may be available upon request.
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