Salt Lake City Physicians preparing to deliver a baby look at fetal heart rate patterns to guide them in deciding whether or not to perform a C- section. But a new study by maternal-fetal medicine specialists at Intermountain Medical Center shows that those heart rate patterns may not be a good indicator of a baby's health, and in fact may lead to unnecessary interventions and higher costs.
"We're trying to create a better a road map for labor," says Marc Jackson, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Intermountain Medical Center, the flagship facility for the Intermountain Healthcare system, and principal investigator on the study. "For years we've used the fetal heart rate to try to identify problems, but it's not a very good map because we have so many babies in an 'indeterminate' category."
In an attempt to clear up that uncertainty, Dr. Jackson and his colleagues at Intermountain Medical Center studied fetal heart rate patterns from more than 48,000 labor and delivery cases at 10 Intermountain Healthcare hospitals over a 28-month period. The fetal heart rates were then classified using a system developed in 2008 by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The results of the study are published in the October issue of the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology.
The system is comprised of three categories: Category I heart rate patterns are considered normal, and, as a rule, do not indicate fetal stress. Category III patterns are abnormal and rare, and usually indicate a problem. Category II patterns are considered indeterminate, and their significance uncertain.
Researchers examined the time babies spent in each of these categories and neonatal outcomes. The fetal heart rate patterns were classified as category I nearly 78% of the time, as category II patterns 22% of the time, and as category III rate
|Contact: Jess C. Gomez|
Intermountain Medical Center