Friday, December 12, 2008

Medical intervention halves incidence of brain-damaged babies

A new report by Lisa Hitchen, and published in the BMJ, says that following the 2000 introduction of mandatory annual training for all staff at the maternity unit at North Bristol NHS Trust, deaths and brain damage among newborn babies have fallen considerably.

Between January 1998 and December 1999, 27.3 infants per 10,000 births were born with brain damage, and 86.6 infants per 1000 births needed resuscitation at birth. But after the introduction of the new surveillance methods (between January 2001 and December 2003) these rates were halved.

Staff are trained in "the interpretation of electronic fetal monitoring" and must complete "forms for reporting the number of infants that needed resuscitation at birth and the incidence of severe hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy". The hospital also developed "a surveillance system to detect periods when standards slipped."

Special note: In the abstract available on 12th December, it reads that the number of babies born with brain damage fell from 27.3 infants per 10,000 to 13.6 per 1,000 births. Clearly, one of these 'per 1,000/10,000' is a misprint, since the number is said to have halved.

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