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Signa Vitae

Journal of Anaesthesia, Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine

Ethical dilemmas in delivery room and NICU


Primigravida in 23/24 weeks of twin pregnancy after IVF/ET with chorioamnionitis and visible amniotic membranes of first twin was admitted to our hospital demanding caesarean section. Ethical Committee declined patient’s request, and within 20 minutes vaginal delivery occur. The first twin’s fetal weight was 610g with a 1-minute Apgar score of 3 and a 5-minute score of 4. The neonate was immediately resuscitated, intubated and required mechanical ventilation with Surfactant endotracheal administration. On the first postpartal day an ultrasound examination detected a grade 3 intraventricular haemorrhage (IVH) with clot dissolving and convulsions in clinical status. The newborn was hyperglycaemic with confirmed perinatal infection and a grade 1 necrotic enterocolitis (NEC). Regarding persistent ductus arteriosus indomethacin was administered. During the NICU stay porencephalic cysts and hydrocephalus arose without visible brain tissue. On the 75th postpartal day cardiorespiratory insufficiency occurred with lethal outcome. The second twin’s fetal weight was 680g with a 1-minute Apgar score of 2 and a 5-minute Apgar score of 3. The baby was born with bradycardia and had a few gasps. The neonate was immediately resuscitated, intubated and high-frequency mechanically ventilated. Surfactant was administered endotracheally. An ultrasound detected grade 3 IVH. Lethal outcome appeared on first postpartal day. In the second case there was a premature delivery of neonates of 23 weeks gestational age, BW 749g. The parents were not interested in resuscitation, and the baby showed weak signs of life. The issue of whether or not to intubate arose. Therefore, a dilemma appeared – to reanimate in such conditions, or not? To use an aggressive approach in the NICU, or not? There were ethical dilemmas within the medical personnel regarding resuscitation in such conditions considering the presented clinical and laboratory findings from the first postpartal day. Comfort care is probably the best option, but without medico-legal regulations this is impossible.

Key words: extremely low gestational age infants, ethical dilemmas, resuscitation, delivery room, NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit)

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Admission to NICU in air is more likely if nasal High Flow is used for stabilisation in preterm babies compared to face mask CPAP


Objective. To examine the success of stabilisation and the short term outcomes from the routine use of nasal high flow (nHF) on an unselected cohort of babies in the delivery room (DR).

Design. Retrospective single-centre study

Setting. Single-centre neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

Patients. Infants born at < 32 weeks gestation

Interventions. Stabilisation and transfer to NICU of an unselected cohort of babies using nHF

Main outcome measures. Success of stabilisation defined by successful transfer on nHF and clinical measures of stability at admission to NICU, including oxygen requirement, admission temperature, surfactant requirement, short term outcomes and whether infants were sustained on nHF by 72 hours of age.

Results. There were 133 eligible babies. 54 were commenced on nHF in the DR (Group A), 47 were stabilised by face mask CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) (Group B), 26 were intubated (Group C); 6 required only minimal respiratory support (Group D). Median maturity varied between the groups (Group A 27+5 weeks, Group B 30 weeks, Group C 26+2 weeks, Group D 31+5). 72% of Group A and 75% of Group B remained on nHF for 72 hours (P=0.82). Fewer babies received surfactant in Group A versus Group B (29% vs 35%; P=0.67), however groups were not matched for maturity differences and Group A were significantly less mature and of lower birthweight (both P<0.001). Group A were significantly more likely to be in air at admission than Group B (P=0.03).

Conclusion. Preterm babies can be successfully stabilised and sustained on nHF. The use of nHF for immediate stabilisation appears to be effective and, in this study, led to significantly more babies being in air on admission to the NICU compared to face mask CPAP stabilisation.

Key words: nasal High Flow cannula, delivery room, stabilisation, premature

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