• Vol. 32 No. 5, 653–657
  • 15 September 2003

Severe Newborn Encephalopathy Unrelated to Intrapartum Hypoxic Events: 3 Case Reports



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Introduction: Newborn encephalopathy is an important clinical problem associated with considerable morbidity and mortality and is pertinent in the assignment of blame in obstetrics litigation.

Clinical Picture: We report 3 babies with severe neonatal encephalopathy.

Outcome: In all 3 cases, intrapartum hypoxic insult was unlikely to be a significant contributing factor towards the development of neonatal encephalopathy. The aetiology was unclear in the first 2 cases and there was antecedent antenatal cause of feto-maternal haemorrhage in the last case.

Conclusion: Prevention of neonatal encephalopathy was not possible in these 3 cases. We recommend that umbilical cord blood gases be clearly documented in such cases to reduce unnecessary obstetrics litigation of intrapartum asphyxia as the significant contributing factor to the poor neonatal outcome. Clinicians must have a high index of suspicion of antecedent causes and perform the necessary investigations to elucidate the aetiology of the neonatal encephalopathy.

Since Little’s article of 1862, it was popularly believed that brain damage in the majority of cases of cerebral palsy occurs during labour and delivery. However, the growing evidence in literature has refuted this belief.

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