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1.  Explaining variation in Down’s syndrome screening uptake: comparing the Netherlands with England and Denmark using documentary analysis and expert stakeholder interviews 
The offer of prenatal Down’s syndrome screening is part of routine antenatal care in most of Europe; however screening uptake varies significantly across countries. Although a decision to accept or reject screening is a personal choice, it is unlikely that the widely differing uptake rates across countries can be explained by variation in individual values alone.
The aim of this study was to compare Down’s syndrome screening policies and programmes in the Netherlands, where uptake is relatively low (<30%) with England and Denmark where uptake is higher (74 and > 90% respectively), in an attempt to explain the observed variation in national uptake rates.
We used a mixed methods approach with an embedded design: a) documentary analysis and b) expert stakeholder analysis. National central statistical offices and legal documents were studied first to gain insight in demographic characteristics, cultural background, organization and structure of healthcare followed by documentary analysis of primary and secondary sources on relevant documents on DSS policies and programme. To enhance interpretation of these findings we performed in-depth interviews with relevant expert stakeholders.
There were many similarities in the demographics, healthcare systems, government abortion legislation and Down’s syndrome screening policy across the studied countries. However, the additional cost for Down’s syndrome screening over and above standard antenatal care in the Netherlands and an emphasis on the ‘right not to know’ about screening in this country were identified as potential explanations for the ‘low’ uptake rates of Down’s syndrome screening in the Netherlands. The social context and positive framing of the offer at the service delivery level may play a role in the relatively high uptake rates in Denmark.
This paper makes an important contribution to understanding how macro-level demographic, social and healthcare delivery factors may have an impact on national uptake rates for Down’s syndrome screening. It has suggested a number of policy level and system characteristics that may go some way to explaining the relatively low uptake rates of Down’s syndrome screening in the Netherlands when compared to England and Denmark.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-437) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4263059  PMID: 25257793
Down’s syndrome; Antenatal screening; Utilization of healthcare; Uptake; International comparison
2.  Evaluation of splanchnic oximetry, Doppler flow velocimetry in the superior mesenteric artery and feeding tolerance in very low birth weight IUGR and non-IUGR infants receiving bolus versus continuous enteral nutrition 
BMC Pediatrics  2012;12:106.
IUGR infants are thought to have impaired gut function after birth, which may result in intestinal disturbances, ranging from temporary intolerance to the enteral feeding to full-blown NEC.
In literature there is no consensus regarding the impact of enteral feeding on intestinal blood flow and hence regarding the best regimen and the best rate of delivering the enteral nutrition.
This is a randomized, non-pharmacological, single-center, cross-over study including 20 VLBW infants.
Inclusion criteria
* Weight at birth ranging: 700–1501 grams
* Gestational age up to 25 weeks and 6 days
* Written informed consent from parents or guardians
Exclusion criteria
* Major congenital abnormality
* Patients enrolled in other trials
* Significant multi-organ failure prior to trial entry
* Pre-existing cutaneous disease not allowing the placement of the NIRS’ probe
In the first 24 hours of life, between the 48th and 72nd hours of life, and during Minimal Enteral Feeding, all infants’ intestinal perfusion will be evaluated with NIRS and a Doppler of the superior mesenteric artery will be executed.
At the achievement of an enteral intake of 100 mL/Kg/day the patients (IUGR and NON IUGR separately) will be randomized in 2 groups: Group A (n=10) will receive a feed by bolus (in 10 minutes); then, after at least 3 hours, they will receive the same amount of formula administered in 3 hours. Group B (n=10) will receive a feed administered in 3 hours followed by a bolus administration of the same amount of formula (in 10 minutes) after at least 3 hours.
On the randomization day intestinal and cerebral regional oximetry will be measured via NIRS. Intestinal and celebral oximetry will be measured before the feed and 30 minutes after the feed by bolus during the 3 hours nutrition the measurements will be performed before the feed, 30 minutes from the start of the nutrition and 30 minutes after the end of the gavage. An evaluation of blood flow velocity of the superior mesenteric artery will be performed meanwhile. The infants of the Group A will be fed with continuous nutrition until the achievement of full enteral feeding. The infants of the Group B will be fed by bolus until the achievement of full enteral feeding.
Evaluations of intestinal oximetry and superior mesenteric artery blood flow after the feed may help in differentiating how the feeding regimen alters the splanchnic blood flow and oxygenation and if the changes induced by feeding are different in IUGR versus NON IUGR infants.
Trial registration number
PMCID: PMC3447641  PMID: 22828032
Feeding tolerance; Near infrared spectroscopy; Minimal enteral feeding; Enteral nutrition; Parenteral nutrition; Intra-uterine growth restriction; Near infrared spectroscopy; Mesenteric artery Doppler; Bolus nutrition; Intermittent nutrition
3.  Effect of malaria in pregnancy on foetal cortical brain development: a longitudinal observational study 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:222.
Malaria in pregnancy has a negative impact on foetal growth, but it is not known whether this also affects the foetal nervous system. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of malaria on foetal cortex development by three-dimensional ultrasound.
Brain images were acquired using a portable ultrasound machine and a 3D ultrasound transducer. All recordings were analysed, blinded to clinical data, using the 4D view software package. The foetal supra-tentorial brain volume was determined and cortical development was qualitatively followed by scoring the appearance and development of six sulci. Multilevel analysis was used to study brain volume and cortical development in individual foetuses.
Cortical grading was possible in 161 out of 223 (72%) serial foetal brain images in pregnant women living in a malaria endemic area. There was no difference between foetal cortical development or brain volumes at any time in pregnancy between women with immediately treated malaria infections and non-infected pregnancies.
The percentage of images that could be graded was similar to other neuro-sonographic studies. Maternal malaria does not have a gross effect on foetal brain development, at least in this population, which had access to early detection and effective treatment of malaria.
PMCID: PMC3483189  PMID: 22747687
Malaria; Pregnancy; Ultrasonography; Prenatal; Brain; Foetus; Cerebral cortex
4.  Antenatal allopurinol for reduction of birth asphyxia induced brain damage (ALLO-Trial); a randomized double blind placebo controlled multicenter study 
Hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy is associated with development of cerebral palsy and cognitive disability later in life and is therefore one of the fundamental problems in perinatal medicine. The xanthine-oxidase inhibitor allopurinol reduces the formation of free radicals, thereby limiting the amount of hypoxia-reperfusion damage. In case of suspected intra-uterine hypoxia, both animal and human studies suggest that maternal administration of allopurinol immediately prior to delivery reduces hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy.
The proposed trial is a randomized double blind placebo controlled multicenter study in pregnant women at term in whom the foetus is suspected of intra-uterine hypoxia.
Allopurinol 500 mg IV or placebo will be administered antenatally to the pregnant woman when foetal hypoxia is suspected. Foetal distress is being diagnosed by the clinician as an abnormal or non-reassuring foetal heart rate trace, preferably accompanied by either significant ST-wave abnormalities (as detected by the STAN-monitor) or an abnormal foetal blood scalp sampling (pH < 7.20).
Primary outcome measures are the amount of S100B (a marker for brain tissue damage) and the severity of oxidative stress (measured by isoprostane, neuroprostane, non protein bound iron and hypoxanthine), both measured in umbilical cord blood. Secondary outcome measures are neonatal mortality, serious composite neonatal morbidity and long-term neurological outcome. Furthermore pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics will be investigated.
We expect an inclusion of 220 patients (110 per group) to be feasible in an inclusion period of two years. Given a suspected mean value of S100B of 1.05 ug/L (SD 0.37 ug/L) in the placebo group this trial has a power of 90% (alpha 0.05) to detect a mean value of S100B of 0.89 ug/L (SD 0.37 ug/L) in the 'allopurinol-treated' group (z-test2-sided). Analysis will be by intention to treat and it allows for one interim analysis.
In this trial we aim to answer the question whether antenatal allopurinol administration reduces hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy in neonates exposed to foetal hypoxia.
Trial registration number
Clinical Trials, protocol registration system: NCT00189007
PMCID: PMC2834613  PMID: 20167117
5.  Depression during pregnancy: views on antidepressant use and information sources of general practitioners and pharmacists 
The use of antidepressants during pregnancy has increased in recent years. In the Netherlands, almost 2% of all pregnant women are exposed to antidepressants. Although guidelines have been developed on considerations that should be taken into account, prescribing antidepressants during pregnancy is still a subject of debate. Physicians and pharmacists may have opposing views on using medication during pregnancy and may give contradictory advice on whether or not to take medication for depression and anxiety disorders during pregnancy. In this study, we investigated information sources used by general practitioners (GPs) and pharmacists and their common practices.
A questionnaire on the use of information sources and the general approach when managing depression during pregnancy was sent out to 1400 health care professionals to assess information sources on drug safety during pregnancy and also the factors that influence decision-making. The questionnaires consisted predominantly of closed multiple-choice questions.
A total of 130 GPs (19%) and 144 pharmacists (21%) responded. The most popular source of information on the safety of drug use during pregnancy is the Dutch National Health Insurance System Formulary, while a minority of respondents contacts the Dutch national Teratology Information Service (TIS). The majority of GPs contact the pharmacy with questions concerning drug use during pregnancy. There is no clear line with regard to treatment or consensus between GPs on the best therapeutic strategy, nor do practitioners agree upon the drug of first choice. GPs have different views on stopping or continuing antidepressants during pregnancy or applying alternative treatment options. The debate appears to be ongoing as to whether or not specialised care for mother and child is indicated in cases of gestational antidepressant use.
Primary health care workers are not univocal concerning therapy for pregnant women with depression. Although more research is needed to account for all safety issues, local or national policies are indispensable in order to avoid undesirable practices, such as giving contradictory advice. GPs and pharmacists should address the subject during their regular pharmacotherapeutic consensus meetings, preferably in collaboration with the TIS or other professionals in the field.
PMCID: PMC2720959  PMID: 19615056
6.  A randomised clinical trial on cardiotocography plus fetal blood sampling versus cardiotocography plus ST-analysis of the fetal electrocardiogram (STAN®) for intrapartum monitoring 
Cardiotocography (CTG) is worldwide the method for fetal surveillance during labour. However, CTG alone shows many false positive test results and without fetal blood sampling (FBS), it results in an increase in operative deliveries without improvement of fetal outcome. FBS requires additional expertise, is invasive and has often to be repeated during labour. Two clinical trials have shown that a combination of CTG and ST-analysis of the fetal electrocardiogram (ECG) reduces the rates of metabolic acidosis and instrumental delivery. However, in both trials FBS was still performed in the ST-analysis arm, and it is therefore still unknown if the observed results were indeed due to the ST-analysis or to the use of FBS in combination with ST-analysis.
We aim to evaluate the effectiveness of non-invasive monitoring (CTG + ST-analysis) as compared to normal care (CTG + FBS), in a multicentre randomised clinical trial setting. Secondary aims are: 1) to judge whether ST-analysis of fetal electrocardiogram can significantly decrease frequency of performance of FBS or even replace it; 2) perform a cost analysis to establish the economic impact of the two treatment options.
Women in labour with a gestational age ≥ 36 weeks and an indication for CTG-monitoring can be included in the trial.
Eligible women will be randomised for fetal surveillance with CTG and, if necessary, FBS or CTG combined with ST-analysis of the fetal ECG.
The primary outcome of the study is the incidence of serious metabolic acidosis (defined as pH < 7.05 and Bdecf > 12 mmol/L in the umbilical cord artery). Secondary outcome measures are: instrumental delivery, neonatal outcome (Apgar score, admission to a neonatal ward), incidence of performance of FBS in both arms and cost-effectiveness of both monitoring strategies across hospitals.
The analysis will follow the intention to treat principle. The incidence of metabolic acidosis will be compared across both groups. Assuming a reduction of metabolic acidosis from 3.5% to 2.1 %, using a two-sided test with an alpha of 0.05 and a power of 0.80, in favour of CTG plus ST-analysis, about 5100 women have to be randomised. Furthermore, the cost-effectiveness of CTG and ST-analysis as compared to CTG and FBS will be studied.
This study will provide data about the use of intrapartum ST-analysis with a strict protocol for performance of FBS to limit its incidence. We aim to clarify to what extent intrapartum ST-analysis can be used without the performance of FBS and in which cases FBS is still needed.
Trial Registration Number
PMCID: PMC1976105  PMID: 17655764

Results 1-8 (8)