Using a computerised decision-support system to interpret the outputs of continuous electronic fetal monitoring during labour does not show any advantages over clinicians interpreting the outputs themselves. This is the first trial to assess decision support of this kind.
In this large NIHR-funded trial, rates of poor neonatal outcomes, caesarean sections and assisted deliveries were not affected by whether clinicians were alerted to potential problems by the decision-support system or by their own interpretation of the data. Developmental outcomes at two years of age were not affected either.
The system used in the trial only looked at fetal heart rate patterns, and didn’t use other data about the labour (which may affect how a clinician manages the labour). This suggests that maternity units should focus on other ways of improving recognition of problems and decision making when they are detected rather than investing in such decision-support systems at this time.
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