Research Article

Mid-arm and chest circumferences at birth as predictors of low birth weight and neonatal mortality in the community.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 291 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.291.6509.1617 (Published 07 December 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:1617
  1. S K Bhargava,
  2. S Ramji,
  3. A Kumar,
  4. M Mohan,
  5. J Marwah,
  6. H P Sachdev

    Abstract

    In developing countries, where about three quarters of births occur at home or in the community, logistic problems prevent the weighing of every newborn child. A study was performed to see whether other simpler measurements could be substituted for weight to identify neonates of low birth weight and those at risk. A study of 520 hospital births showed a strong correlation (p less than 0.001) between other anthropometric variables and birth weight, but the correlation was maximum for chest circumference (r = 0.8696) and mid-arm circumference (r = 0.8110). A mid-arm circumference of less than or equal to 8.7 cm and a chest circumference of less than or equal to 30 cm had the best sensitivity and specificity for identifying neonates with a birth weight of 2500 g or less. Measurements on 501 consecutive live births in the community were recorded and the infants followed up at specified ages. Mid-arm circumference was again significantly correlated to birth weight (r = 0.6918). Neonatal mortality showed an inverse relation but postneonatal mortality an inconsistent relation with mid-arm circumference. A mid-arm circumference of less than or equal to 8.7 cm and a birth weight of less than or equal to 2500 g were equally useful in predicting neonatal outcome. Mid-arm and chest circumferences are simple, practicable, quick, and reliable indicators for predicting low birth weight and neonatal outcome in the community and can be easily measured by paramedical workers in developing nations.