Structured clinical examinations in labor: rekindling the craft of obstetrics
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine. 2019, 1-8. 10.1080/14767058.2019.1651283
Objectives: Exact knowledge of fetal station and position is of paramount importance for reliable surveillance of labor progress and a prerequisite for safe operative vaginal procedures. Detailed clinical assessments are thoroughly described in old textbooks, but almost forgotten in contemporary obstetrics. Ultrasound is suggested as an objective diagnostic tool in active labor. Several publications have demonstrated a low correlation between ultrasound and clinical assessment of fetal head station and position, but the methods of clinical assessment in these studies are poorly described. We wanted to explore if a quality clinical assessment could perform better than clinical assessment in previous publications, by analyzing the correlation between a structured method of clinical assessment and intrapartum ultrasound. Methods: In all, 100 laboring women with cervical dilatation ≥7 cm were included in a prospective cohort study at Oslo University Hospital-Ullevål from October to December 2016. The study design was cross-sectional. Clinical examinations were performed by one special educated consultant (JKI), and transabdominal and transperineal ultrasound clips were recorded and examined by a blinded expert in intrapartum ultrasound (TME). Fetal position was classified as a clock face with 12 units (hourly divisions) and thereafter categorized as occiput anterior (OA), left occiput transverse (LOT), occiput posterior (OP), and right occiput transverse (ROT) positions. Fetal station was categorized clinically from −5 to +5 and measured with ultrasound as angle of progression (AoP) and head-perineum distance (HPD). AoP is the angle between a longitudinal line through the symphysis and a tangent to the head contour. HPD is the shortest distance between the fetal skull and the perineum. Results: Eight women were excluded due to strong contractions between clinical assessments and ultrasound measurements, fetal distress, or incomplete examinations. Fetal position assessed with ultrasound and clinical examination agreed exactly in 48/92 (52%) of cases, within one unit (hour) in 87/92 (95%) of cases and within two units in 90/92 (98%) of cases. It differed by three units in one case and by five units in one case. The agreement categorized into OA, LOT, OP, and ROT was good (Cohen’s kappa 0.72; 95% CI 0.61–0.84). For station, the agreement was very good for both HPD (Pearson correlation coefficient r = 0.86; 95% CI 0.80–0.91) and AoP (r = 0.77; 95% CI to 0.67–0.84). The correlation between HPD and AoP was good (r = 0.76; 95% CI 0.65–0.84). Conclusion: We found very good correlations between structured clinical assessments and ultrasound examinations, suggesting that an objective quality in clinical examinations is possible to achieve. More focus on clinical skills training may improve accuracy for clinicians.