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Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1995 Oct;102(10):826-30.

The mortality and morbidity associated with umbilical cord prolapse.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, John Radcliffe NHS Trust, Oxford, UK.



To examine the management of cord prolapse and its morbidity and mortality.


Retrospective study of consecutive babies born after cord prolapse, identified using the Oxford Obstetric Data System, and those with registered handicap, identified by the Oxford Region Register of Early Childhood Impairments.


District maternity hospital managing more than 6000 deliveries annually.


One hundred and thirty-two babies born after the identification of cord prolapse in the John Radcliffe Hospital between January 1984 and December 1992.


Survival rates, condition at birth assessed by Apgar scores at 1 and 5 minutes and blood gas values on cord blood samples, and incidence of major handicap at three years of age.


The incidence of cord prolapse was 1 in 426 total births. There were six stillbirths and six neonatal deaths. One baby died as a result of birth asphyxia. The uncorrected perinatal mortality rate was 91 per 1000. Of 120 survivors, only one baby was known to suffer a major neurological handicap. Electronic cardiotocographs aided the diagnosis of cord prolapse in 41% of cases. Apgar scores were better with a shorter diagnosis to delivery interval, but cord gas results did not correlate well with Apgar scores or the diagnosis to delivery interval.


Cord prolapse occurs with a relatively stable incidence in this population irrespective of changes in obstetric practices. Despite the high incidence of ominous cardiotocographs, low Apgar scores and acidaemia on blood gas analysis, the fetal outcome is not as poor as might be expected and mortality is predominantly attributable to congenital anomalies and prematurity rather than birth asphyxia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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