Effectiveness of intrapartum fetal surveillance to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes: a systematic review and network meta-analysis

Bassel H. Al Wattar*, Emma Honess, Sarah Bunnewell, Nicky J Welton, Siobhan Quenby, Khalid S Khan, Javier Zamora, Shakila Thangaratinam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Cesarean delivery is the most common surgical procedure worldwide. Intrapartum fetal surveillance is routinely offered to improve neonatal outcomes, but the effects of different methods on the risk of emergency cesarean deliveries remains uncertain. We conducted a systematic review and network meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of different types of fetal surveillance.

METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, Embase and CENTRAL until June 1, 2020, for randomized trials evaluating any intrapartum fetal surveillance method. We performed a network meta-analysis within a frequentist framework. We assessed the quality and network inconsistency of trials. We reported primarily on intrapartum emergency cesarean deliveries and other secondary maternal and neonatal outcomes using risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

RESULTS: We included 33 trials (118 863 patients) evaluating intermittent auscultation with Pinard stethoscope/handheld Doppler (IA), cardiotocography (CTG), computerized cardiotocography (cCTG), CTG with fetal scalp lactate (CTG-lactate), CTG with fetal scalp pH analysis (CTG-FBS), CTG with fetal pulse oximetry (FPO-CTG), CTG with fetal heart electrocardiogram (CTG-STAN) and their combinations. Intermittent auscultation reduced the risk of emergency cesarean deliveries compared with other types of surveillance (IA v. CTG: RR 0.83, 95% CI 0.72–0.97; IA v. CTG-FBS: RR 0.71, 95% CI 0.63–0.80; IA v.CTG-lactate: RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.64–0.92; IA v. FPO-CTG: RR 0.75, 95% CI 0.65–0.87; IA v.FPO-CTG-FBS: RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.67–0.99; cCTG-FBS v. IA: RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.04–1.42), except STAN-CTG-FBS (RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.98–1.40). There was a similar reduction observed for emergency cesarean deliveries for fetal distress. None of the evaluated methods was associated with a reduced risk of neonatal acidemia, neonatal unit admissions, Apgar scores or perinatal death.

INTERPRETATION: Compared with other types of fetal surveillance, intermittent auscultation seems to reduce emergency cesarean deliveries in labour without increasing adverse neonatal and maternal outcomes.

Cesarean delivery is the most common surgical procedure worldwide, performed to expedite delivery and avoid neonatal complications. Fetal surveillance is routinely offered to patients in labour to reduce the risk of adverse neonatal outcomes, as well as the risk of unnecessary emergency cesarean deliveries and other maternal interventions. Fetal surveillance aims to detect intrapartum hypoxia from acute or subacute adverse events in labour requiring medical intervention and to reduce the risk of serious complications such as neonatal cerebral palsy, hypoxic–ischemic encephalopathy or stillbirth.

Monitoring the fetal heart rate to detect intrapartum hypoxia using simple surveillance techniques, such as the Pinard stethoscope, has been practised for decades.1 Over the last 50 years, several newer surveillance methods have been evaluated, with varied uptake in practice.2 Cardiotocography (CTG) remains the most common surveillance method used in high-risk pregnancies.3 However, given its limited accuracy, many researchers have evaluated its use in combination with other surveillance methods, such as fetal heart electrocardiogram (STAN), fetal scalp pH analysis (FBS) or fetal pulse oximetry (FPO), and with computer-aided decision models (cCTG) to improve its diagnostic value.4–6 Despite extensive investment in clinical research, the overall effectiveness of such methods in improving maternal and neonatal outcomes remains debatable as stillbirth rates have plateaued worldwide, while cesarean delivery rates continue to rise.7,8

Existing meta-analyses evaluating different intrapartum fetal surveillance methods remain limited to head-to-head comparisons of monitoring techniques, without a comprehensive assessment of their effectiveness in improving maternal and neonatal pregnancy outcomes.4,9–13 We conducted a systematic review of randomized trials and a network meta-analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of all available fetal surveillance methods in improving maternal and neonatal outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E468-E477
Number of pages10
JournalCMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal
Volume193
Issue number14
Early online date6 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2021

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