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1.  Fetal growth restriction and the risk of perinatal mortality–case studies from the multicentre PORTO study 
Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is the single largest contributing factor to perinatal mortality in non-anomalous fetuses. Advances in antenatal and neonatal critical care have resulted in a reduction in neonatal deaths over the past decades, while stillbirth rates have remained unchanged. Antenatal detection rates of fetal growth failure are low, and these pregnancies carry a high risk of perinatal death.
The Prospective Observational Trial to Optimize Paediatric Health in IUGR (PORTO) Study recruited 1,200 ultrasound-dated singleton IUGR pregnancies, defined as EFW <10th centile, between 24+0 and 36+6 weeks gestation. All recruited fetuses underwent serial sonographic assessment of fetal weight and multi-vessel Doppler studies until birth. Perinatal outcomes were recorded for all pregnancies. Case records of the perinatal deaths from this prospectively recruited IUGR cohort were reviewed, their pregnancy details and outcome were analysed descriptively and compared to the entire cohort.
Of 1,116 non-anomalous singleton infants with EFW <10th centile, 6 resulted in perinatal deaths including 3 stillbirths and 3 early neonatal deaths. Perinatal deaths occurred between 24+6 and 35+0 weeks gestation corresponding to birthweights ranging from 460 to 2260 grams. Perinatal deaths occurred more commonly in pregnancies with severe growth restriction (EFW <3rd centile) and associated abnormal Doppler findings resulting in earlier gestational ages at delivery and lower birthweights. All of the described pregnancies were complicated by either significant maternal comorbidities, e.g. hypertension, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or diabetes, or poor obstetric histories, e.g. prior perinatal death, mid-trimester or recurrent pregnancy loss. Five of the 6 mortalities occurred in women of non-Irish ethnic backgrounds. All perinatal deaths showed abnormalities on placental histopathological evaluation.
The PNMR in this cohort of prenatally identified IUGR cases was 5.4/1,000 and compares favourably to the overall national rate of 4.1/1,000 births, which can be attributed to increased surveillance and timely delivery. Despite antenatal recognition of IUGR and associated maternal risk factors, not all perinatal deaths can be prevented.
PMCID: PMC3923738  PMID: 24517273
Perinatal mortality; Antepartum stillbirth; Neonatal death; Intrauterine growth restriction; PORTO Study
2.  Study Protocol. IDUS – Instrumental delivery & ultrasound. A multi-centre randomised controlled trial of ultrasound assessment of the fetal head position versus standard care as an approach to prevent morbidity at instrumental delivery 
Instrumental deliveries are commonly performed in the United Kingdom and Ireland, with rates of 12 – 17% in most centres. Knowing the exact position of the fetal head is a pre-requisite for safe instrumental delivery. Traditionally, diagnosis of the fetal head position is made on transvaginal digital examination by delineating the suture lines of the fetal skull and the fontanelles. However, the accuracy of transvaginal digital examination can be unreliable and varies between 20% and 75%. Failure to identify the correct fetal head position increases the likelihood of failed instrumental delivery with the additional morbidity of sequential use of instruments or second stage caesarean section. The use of ultrasound in determining the position of the fetal head has been explored but is not part of routine clinical practice.
A multi-centre randomised controlled trial is proposed. The study will take place in two large maternity units in Ireland with a combined annual birth rate of 13,500 deliveries. It will involve 450 nulliparous women undergoing instrumental delivery after 37 weeks gestation. The main outcome measure will be incorrect diagnosis of the fetal head position. A study involving 450 women will have 80% power to detect a 10% difference in the incidence of inaccurate diagnosis of the fetal head position with two-sided 5% alpha.
It is both important and timely to evaluate the use of ultrasound to diagnose the fetal head position prior to instrumental delivery before routine use can be advocated. The overall aim is to reduce the incidence of incorrect diagnosis of the fetal head position prior to instrumental delivery and improve the safety of instrumental deliveries.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN72230496
PMCID: PMC3490917  PMID: 22970933
Fetal head position; Second stage of labour; Intrapartum ultrasound; Randomised controlled trial

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