21 November 2013

Infant asphyxiation caused by human error

According to a Norwegian study human error is the most common cause of infant asphyxiation at birth.

Human error is the most common cause of infant asphyxiation at birth, according to a new Norwegian study.

Birth asphyxia occurs when a baby doesn't receive enough oxygen before, during or immediately after birth. It can lead to brain damage and death.

In this study, researchers looked at 161 compensation claims for birth asphyxia made in Norway between 1994 and 2008. In those cases, 54 infants died and 107 survived, including 96 who suffered brain damage.

Substandard care

Human error was the most common cause of birth asphyxia. Half of the cases were due to inadequate foetal monitoring, 14% were due to lack of clinical knowledge, 11% were due to failure to follow clinical guidelines, 10% were due to failure to ask for senior medical staff assistance and 4% were due to errors in drug administration.

In cases where there was substandard care, the obstetrician and midwife were identified as the responsible staff 49% and 46% of the time, respectively, according to the study, which was published recently in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynaecological Scandinavica.

"In most compensated cases, poor foetal monitoring led to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the infant," study author Dr Stine Andreasen, of department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Nordland Hospital in Bodo, Norway, said in a journal news release.

"Training for midwives and obstetricians, along with high-quality audits, could help to reduce claims for compensation after birth asphyxia," Andreasen said.

More information

The University of California, San Francisco, Children's Hospital has more about birth asphyxia.

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