OJOG  Vol.3 No.6 , August 2013
Interpretation of British experts’ illustrations of fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations by Consultant Obstetricians, registrars and midwives: A prospective study—Reasons for major disagreement with experts and implications for clinical practice
ABSTRACT

Objective: To test the reproducibility of British experts’ (eFM, K2MS, Gibb and Arulkumaran) [1-3] illustrations of fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations by trained British Obstetricians and midwives. To analyze reasons for any discrepancies by examining factors relating to the participants, British experts’ descriptions and NICE guidelines [4]. Design: Prospective observational study. Setting: National Health Service (NHS) Hospitals. Participants: 38 Obstetric Consultants, 49 registrars and 45 midwives. Methods: Printed questionnaire. Statistical Analysis: Fisher’s Exact test. Results: This largest study of its kind showed almost unbelievably high disconnect between CTG interpretation by experts and participants. 98% - 100% midwives, 80% - 100% Registrars and 74% - 100% Consultants categorized FHR decelerations differently from the five experts’ illustrations/interpretations (p < 0.0001). Remarkably, the three experts’ illustrations of early (supposedly most benign) decelerations were classed as atypical variable by 56% Consultants, 78% Registrars and 99% midwives and the CTGs as pathological by 85% of the participants. Conclusions: The high degree of disagreement with the experts’ illustrations (p < 0.0001) did not appear to be due to participant factors. The immediate reasons seemed to be the conflicting illustrations and heterogeneity of experts’ descriptions. But most importantly, these appeared to stem from non-standardized ambiguous definitions of FHR decelerations and many intrinsic systemic flaws in the current NICE guidelines [4]. The NICE concept of “true uniform” (identical) early and late decelerations seems biologically implausible (a myth) and no examples can be found. Another myth seems to be that early and late decelerations should be gradual. Only very shallow decelerations will look “gradual” on the British CTG. These systemic flaws lead to dysfunctional CTG interpretation increasing intervention as well as impairing diagnosis of fetal hypoxemia. This is because the vast majority of FHR decelerations fall in a single heterogeneous “variable” group with many further classed as “atypical” (pathological) based on disproven and discredited criteria [5-7]. There is increasing evidence in USA that a system with variable decelerations as the majority is clinically unhelpful because of loss of information [5-9]. In the interest of patient care and safety, open debate is necessary regarding a better way forward. Classification of FHR decelerations based primarily and solely on time relationship to contractions appears more scientific and clinically useful.


Cite this paper
Sholapurkar, S. (2013) Interpretation of British experts’ illustrations of fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations by Consultant Obstetricians, registrars and midwives: A prospective study—Reasons for major disagreement with experts and implications for clinical practice. Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 3, 454-465. doi: 10.4236/ojog.2013.36085.
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