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Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1995 Sep;102(9):688-700.

A multicentre comparative study of 17 experts and an intelligent computer system for managing labour using the cardiotocogram.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics, Postgraduate Medical School, Plymouth, UK.



To investigate 1. whether an intelligent computer system could obtain a performance in labour management comparable with experts when using cardiotocograms (CTGs), patient information, and fetal blood sampling and 2. whether experts could be consistent and agree in their management of labour.


An intelligent computer system and 17 clinicians experienced in fetal monitoring from 16 centres in the UK.


Fifty cases with complete intrapartum CTGs and clinical data were reviewed by each expert and the system independently on two occasions, at least one month apart. Each CTG was scored in 15 min segments according to a protocol and estimates of the cervical dilatation and fetal scalp blood pH were given when requested.


Consistency and agreement in the recorded scores, agreement and timing of cases recommended for caesarean sections, fetal blood sampling rates, intervention in cases with poor outcome and intervention in cases with good clinical outcome.


The system: 1. Agreed with experts well and significantly better than chance (67.33%, kappa = 0.31, P << 0.001). 2. Was highly consistent (99.16%, kappa = 0.98, P << 0.001) when used by two operators independently. 3. Recommended no unnecessary intervention in cases with normal delivery and good condition (cord artery pH > 7.15, vein pH > 7.20, 5 min Apgar > or = 9 and no resuscitation). This was better than all but two of the experts. 4. Recommended delivery by caesarean section in 11 cases; at least 15 of the 17 experts in each review also recommended caesarean section delivery in these cases. The majority did so within 15 min of the system and two-thirds did so within 30 min. 5. Identified as many of the birth asphyxiated cases (cord arterial pH < 7.05 and BDecf > or = 12, and Apgar score at 5 min < or = 7 with neonatal morbidity) as the majority of experts and one more than was acted upon clinically. The experts were found to be consistent and to agree. There was good agreement in the cases and the timing of caesarean section recommendations. The majority of experts did not recommend operative intervention in cases which had a normal delivery and good outcome, but did recommend operative interventions in 10 of 12 cases delivered with cord arterial pH < 7.05. However, in one of the cases delivered with birth asphyxia, 14 of the 17 experts and the system failed to recommend intervention.


The system's performance was found to be indistinguishable from the experts' in the 50 cases examined, but it was more consistent. This demonstrates the potential for an intelligent computer system to improve the interpretation of the CTG and decrease intervention. Furthermore, the good performance of most experts in this study demonstrates the potential effectiveness of the CTG and raises important questions regarding why the CTG has fallen short of expectations in current practice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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