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To overcome the difficulties in interpreting fetal heart rate (FHR), several tools based on the autonomic nervous system and heart rate variability (HRV) have been developed. The objective of this study was to use FHR and HRV parameters for the prediction of fetal hypoxia. It was an experimental study in the instrumented fetal sheep. Repeated umbilical cord occlusions were performed to achieve severe acidosis. Hemodynamic parameters, ECG, and blood gases were analyzed. The variables used were heart rate baseline, HRV analysis (RMSSD, SDNN, LF, HF, HFnu, Fetal Stress Index (FSI), …), and morphological analysis of decelerations. The gold standard used to classify hypoxia was the fetal arterial pH (pH < 7.10). Different multivariable statistical methods (logistic regression and decision trees) were applied for the detection of acidosis. 21 lambs were instrumented. A total of 130 pairs of FHR/fetal pH analysis were obtained of which 29 in the acidosis group and 101 in the non-acidosis group. After logistic regression model with bootstrap resampling and stepwise backward selection, only one variable was selected, FSI. The AUC of FSI alone in this model was 0.81 with a sensitivity of 0.66, specificity of 0.88, PPV of 0.61, and NPV of 0.90 considering a threshold of 68. Decision trees with CHAID and CART algorithms showed a sensitivity of 0.48 and 0.59, respectively, and a specificity of 0.94 for both. All employed methods identified HRV variables as the most predictive of acidosis. The primary variables selected automatically were those from the HRV. Supporting the use of FHRV measures for the screening of fetal acidosis during labour is interesting. © 2022. The Author(s).


Louise Ghesquière, C Ternynck, D Sharma, Y Hamoud, R Vanspranghels, L Storme, V Houfflin-Debarge, J De Jonckheere, C Garabedian. Heart rate markers for prediction of fetal acidosis in an experimental study on fetal sheep. Scientific reports. 2022 Jun 23;12(1):10615

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PMID: 35739219

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