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Trends in the incidence and management of hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy in the therapeutic hypothermia era: a national population study


Objective Hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) remains a leading cause of neonatal mortality and neurodisability. We aimed to determine the incidence of HIE and management patterns against national guidelines.

Design Retrospective cohort study using the National Neonatal Research Database.

Setting Neonatal units in England and Wales.

Patients Infants 34–42 weeks gestational age (GA) with a recorded diagnosis of HIE.

Main outcomes Incidence of HIE, mortality and treatment with therapeutic hypothermia (TH) were the main outcomes. Temporal changes were compared across two epochs (2011–2013 and 2014–2016).

Results Among 407 462 infants admitted for neonatal care, 12 195 were diagnosed with HIE. 8166 infants ≥36 weeks GA had moderate/severe HIE, 62.1% (n=5069) underwent TH and mortality was 9.3% (n=762). Of infants with mild HIE (n=3394), 30.3% (n=1027) underwent TH and 6 died. In late preterm infants (34–35 weeks GA) with HIE (n=635, 5.2%), 33.1% (n=210) received TH and 13.1% (n=83) died. Between epochs (2011–2013 vs 2014–2016), mortality decreased for infants ≥36 weeks GA with moderate/severe HIE (17.5% vs 12.3%; OR 0.69, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.81, p<0.001). Treatment with TH increased significantly between epochs in infants with mild HIE (24.9% vs 35.8%, p<0.001) and those born late preterm (34.3% vs 46.6%, p=0.002).

Conclusions Mortality of infants ≥36 weeks GA with moderate/severe HIE has reduced over time, although many infants diagnosed with moderate/severe HIE do not undergo TH. Increasingly, mild HIE and late preterm infants with HIE are undergoing TH, where the evidence base is lacking, highlighting the need for prospective studies to evaluate safety and efficacy in these populations.

  • neonatology
  • epidemiology
  • neurology

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