Research Article

Confidential paediatric inquiry into neonatal deaths in Wessex, 1981 and 1982.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984; 288 doi: (Published 21 April 1984) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1984;288:1206
  1. B Wood,
  2. J C Catford,
  3. J J Cogswell


    From 1 January 1981 to 31 December 1982, 66 256 births and 386 neonatal deaths were recorded in the Wessex Regional Health Authority, giving a neonatal mortality of 5.8/1000 live births. An experienced consultant paediatrician undertook a confidential inquiry into each death shortly after it had been reported. One hundred and forty four deaths (37%) were found to be due to lethal or severe malformations, an incidence of 2.2/1000 births. Of the 242 normally formed infants, 111 (46%) died within 24 hours of birth. Seventy seven (32%) weighed over 2500 g at birth. Factors operating before delivery accounted for 104 (43%) of the deaths of normally formed infants. The commonest factors were short gestation and low birth weight, and intrauterine hypoxia and birth injury. Factors after delivery accounted for 81 deaths (33%), the commonest being infections and sudden infant deaths. In the remaining 57 deaths (24%) it seemed that a combination of factors before and after birth had led to the death. Factors before birth thus played a part in two thirds of all deaths. Possible adverse factors in medical care were sought in 154 potentially viable babies and were identified in 38--that is, 10% of all neonatal deaths. Better provision and training of district staff in immediate care at birth would achieve more in lowering neonatal mortality in Wessex than the setting up of a regional unit specializing in advanced neonatal intensive care. Moreover, the greatest scope for improving the outcome of childbirth in Wessex would be offered if there were further advances in obstetric rather than neonatal care.