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Minerva Ginecologica 2001 October;53(5):331-6


language: Italian

Preventable perinatal mortality

Colla F., Alba E., Grio R.


Background. Using a critical systematic analysis of perinatal mortality, this study aims to examine, on the basis of current medical and scientific knowledge, whether there are still situations in which feto-neonatal death could be prevented and to define and evaluate the feasibility of realising this goal.
Methods. The concept of preventable feto-neonatal death refers to the number of individuals who could have survived with better pre-, intra and postnatal care. In other words, it indicates the number of deaths that could have been avoided in an almost perfect health organisation and therefore, by reference, the number of inevitable deaths (not preventable). In this field it is important to distinguish between clinically preventable, where there are preventable factors at the time of hospitalisation and during the clinical phase of the disease, and extra-clinically preventable when these factors, if potentially present during the preclinical phase of disease, disappear owing to the gravity of conditions at the time of hospitalisation. Using data from maternal and neonatal clinical records, death certificates and autopsy findings, the authors examined the perinatal mortality rate in Department ''B'' of the Gynecological and Obstetrics Clinic of Turin University during the period 1979-1998. The results of these two decades were compared in terms of clinical practice.
Results. The perinatal mortality rate fell significantly (p<0.01) during the period 1989-1998: 1.02 vs 1.77%. It is worth underlining that this was mainly the result of a marked reduction (over 50%) in late fetal mortality: 0.43 vs 0.98% (p<0.01). Early neonatal mortality also diminished, although not significantly (0.59 vs 0.79%). In order to evaluate preventable deaths, perinatal mortality was subject to a detailed critical analysis to analyse its chronological evolution: prenatal, intranatal, early neonatal. During the second period examined, the preventable nature of perinatal mortality, although slightly lower, applied to 36.35% of cases. It is important to underline that although clinically preventable deaths were unfortunately still present (approx. 10%), most cases (approx. 90%) referred to extra-clinically preventable deaths.
Conclusions. On the basis of current medical and scientific knowledge, the authors outline the directives for medical and specialist obstetric and social care required in the specific fight against preventable perinatal deaths. Recent progress in basic scientific research, especially in the genetic field, may make a vital contribution to limit and reduce the coefficient of feto-neonatal pathology that is still beyond control.

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