Background: Despite recent declines in syphilis rates nationally, recent outbreaks suggest that prevention of congenital syphilis remains an ongoing public health problem.
Goals: To identify missed opportunities for congenital syphilis prevention during prenatal care.
Study Design: Retrospective medical record review of 157 live birth or stillbirth deliveries that involved cases of congenital syphilis from Grady Memorial Hospital (Atlanta, GA).
Results: The hospital congenital syphilis prevalence was 8.2 cases per 1000 live births. Six percent of case patients were HIV positive. Opportunities for earlier maternal screening, treatment, or diagnosis were missed in 60% of case patients who received timely prenatal care. Congenital syphilis cases attributable to preventable missed opportunities were significantly more common among case patients with fewer prenatal visits (66% versus 28%, P = 0.01).
Conclusion: Provider efforts to reduce congenital syphilis in high-risk populations receiving prenatal care should focus on (1) screening patients at the first opportunity, at both the first prenatal visit and during the third trimester (i.e., 28 weeks); (2) performing on-site testing and same-day treatment; (3) providing appropriate treatment to infected women with penicillin allergy; (4) referring sex partners for treatment to prevent reinfection; and (5) screening all pregnant women attending emergency clinics.