Category II Intrapartum Fetal Heart Rate Patterns Unassociated With Recognized Sentinel Events: Castles in the Air : Obstetrics & Gynecology

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Contents: Current Commentary

Category II Intrapartum Fetal Heart Rate Patterns Unassociated With Recognized Sentinel Events

Castles in the Air

Clark, Steven L. MD

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Obstetrics & Gynecology 139(6):p 1003-1008, June 2022. | DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000004801

The evolution of continuous electronic fetal heart rate (FHR) monitoring has presented the obstetrician with a critical clinical conundrum: basic science observations suggest that such monitoring might be associated with improved long-term neurologic outcomes, yet, after a half century of use and millions of cesarean deliveries based on FHR monitoring, evidence for such improvement remains absent. This dichotomy appears to be related to widespread misconceptions regarding the physiology underlying various FHR patterns and the developmental origins of cerebral palsy. These misconceptions are strengthened by a reliance on anecdotal experience and tradition in lieu of evidence-based medicine, the confusing “category II” FHR designation, medical-legal considerations, and our tendency to view fetal monitoring, as originally conceptualized, as a single, indivisible entity whose concepts must be accepted or rejected en bloc. Ill-defined and largely imaginary conditions such as “depletion of fetal reserve” are particularly harmful and their use in clinical medicine uniquely not evidence based. A solution to this self-inflicted injury to our specialty will require a concerted effort involving teachers, authors, and researchers.

© 2022 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.

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