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Critical evaluation of American categorization of fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations and three tier classification—Shortcomings, contradictions, remedies and need for debate

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DOI: 10.4236/ojog.2013.33067    4,433 Downloads   7,944 Views   Citations

ABSTRACT

Fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations are the commonest aberrant feature on cardiotocograph (CTG) thus having a major influence on classification ofFHRpatterns into the three tier system. The unexplained paradox of early decelerations (head compressionan invariable phenomenon in labor) being extremely rare [1] should prompt a debate about scientific validity of current categorization. This paper demonstrates that there appear to be major fallacies in the pathophysiological hypothesis (cord compressionbaroreceptor mechanism) underpinning of vast majority of (variable?) decelerations. Rapid decelerations during contractions with nadir matching peak of contractions are consistent with “pure” vagal reflex (head compression) rather than result of fetal blood pressure or oxygenation changes from cord compression. Hence, many American authors have reported that the abrupt FHR decelerations attributed to cord compression are actually due to head compression [2-6]. The paper debates if there are major fundamental fallacies in current categorization of FHR decelerations based concomitantly on rate of descent (reflecting putative aetiology?) and time relationship to contractions. Decelerations with consistently early timing (constituting majority) seem to get classed as “variable” because of rapid descent. A distorted unscientific categorization of FHR decelerations could lead to clinically unhelpful three tier classification system. Hence, the current unphysiological classification needs a fresh debate with consideration of alternative models and re-evaluation of clinical studies to test these. Open debate improves patient care and safety. The clue to benign reflex versus hypoxic nature of decelerations seems to be in the timing rather than the rate of descent. Although the likelihood of fetal hypxemia is related to depth and duration ofFHRdecelerations, the cut-offs are likely to be different for early/late/variable decelerations and it seems to be of paramount importance to get this discrimination right for useful visual or computerized system of CTG interpretation.


Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Cite this paper

Sholapurkar, S. (2013) Critical evaluation of American categorization of fetal heart rate (FHR) decelerations and three tier classification—Shortcomings, contradictions, remedies and need for debate. Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 3, 362-370. doi: 10.4236/ojog.2013.33067.

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