Editorials

The role of the routine neonatal examination

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7184.619 (Published 06 March 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:619

It has many aims, few of them evaluated

  1. D M B Hall, Professor of community paediatrics
  1. Division of Child Health, Sheffield Children's Hospital, Sheffield S10 2TH

    Papers p 627

    Mothers meticulously inspect their newborn infants,1 but, because health professionals think they can do it better, routine neonatal examination is universally accepted as good practice.2 Is this really useful and, if it is, should infants be examined twice or is once enough? No one has yet been brave enough to address the first question with a randomised trial. As to the second, common sense suggests that a second examination might occasionally detect a problem missed at the first one, but a study from Aberdeen now tells us firmly that one is sufficient (p 627).3 If there are any benefits from a second examination, they were too small to be detected in a sample of 10 000 babies, though the study lacked the power confidently to compare outcomes for congenital dislocation of the hip and serious heart disease.

    Medical staff shortages often delay discharge after childbirth until the baby can be examined. The examination is usually done by junior doctors …

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