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J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Oct;36(5):498-501.

Errors in the certification of neonatal death.

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  • 1The New Children's Hospital, Parramatta, New South Wales, Australia.



To examine the precision of the perinatal death certificate (PDC) and ascertain the possible sources of error in the certification of neonatal deaths.


The 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death recorded on the PDC were obtained from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and compared with those from a clinicopathological summary (CPS) completed after all pending laboratory results and/or autopsy information were available.


There were 179 neonatal deaths during the 7 year period under review. The PDC and CPS main causes of death were concordant in 103 of 179 infants (58%) and discordant in the remaining 76 infants (42%). The PDC main cause of death was incorrectly classified in 61 of 76 infants (80%) with discordant findings and was incompletely classified in the remaining 15 infants (20%). The following discordancies were recorded for the 61 infants with an incorrect classification: (i) transposition of the 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death, resulting in a sequencing discordancy in 14 infants (23%); (ii) recording a non-pathological condition as the main cause of death in 40 infants (66%); and (iii) recording an incorrect pathological condition as the main cause of death in seven infants (11%). Eight of the 61 (13%) incorrect classifications and four of the 15 (27%) incomplete classifications were associated with laboratory and/or autopsy data being unavailable when the PDC was completed.


The concordancy between the PDC and CPS would have increased from 58 to 91% if the 'Main' and 'Other' causes of death had been sequenced correctly, if the main cause of death had been ascribed to a pathological disease rather than a non-pathological condition and if corrective information from pending laboratory tests and/or autopsy examination had been made available to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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