Human Error & Poor Fetal Monitoring to Blame for Fatal Birth Asphyxia

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As a new parent, you have probably heard about the importance of close fetal monitoring to ensure that a baby is healthy at birth. Now the results of a 15-year study prove just how vital fetal monitoring is: over half of all compensation claims in Norway that resulted in brain injury and fatal birth asphyxia in newborns were caused by inadequate fetal monitoring.

Dr. Stine Andreasen of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Nordland Hospital in Bodø, Norway examined 161 claims paid out by the Norwegian System of Compensation to Patients (NPE) between 1994 and 2008. All cases examined involved alleged birth asphyxia that resulted in neurological injury or death.

Of the patients involved, 54 children died and 107 infants survived, with 96 of the survivors suffering neurological injury. The study concluded that the biggest factor in every birth asphyxia case was human error on behalf of the medical team, with the most common errors including:

  • Inadequate fetal monitoring – 50 percent of cases
  • Lack of clinical knowledge – 14 percent of cases
  • Non-compliance to clinical guidelines – 11 percent of cases
  • Failure to ask for assistance from a senior medical professional – 10 percent of cases
  • Drug administration errors – 4 percent of cases

Dr. Andreasen explained the link between fetal monitoring and brain injury, and underlines the importance of attention to fetal heart traces. “In most compensated cases, poor fetal monitoring led to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the infant,” Dr. Andreasen commented.

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